Introduction and aim: The aim of our study was to investigate changes in clinical staging N (lymph node) and M (distant metastasis) in patients who receive PET/CT-based 3D radiotherapy within complex oncological treatment, and compare to conventional cross-sectional imaging staging technique. We also investigated the presence of PET/ CT-detected second tumors and the effect of PET/CT on therapeutic decisions. Method: From the 1st of January 2015 to the 30th of November 2016, 192 patients (n = 192) were treated with PET/CT-based radiation (109 head, 44 lung, 28 rectum and 11 cervical localization) in the Oncoradiology Institute of the Health Center of the University of Kaposvár. All patients received conventional cross-sectional and PET/CT imaging in accordance with the valid investigation protocol. The average time interval between the two cross-sectional investigations was 5.2 weeks. Clinical N and M staging was performed on the basis of the classification of the American Joint Committee on Cancer (AJCC) and the Union of International Cancer Control (UICC). Results: By analyzing the clinical stages N and M separately, based on the results of the PET/CT studies, the N stage was changed in 77 cases and the M stage changed in 31 cases. Overall, the PET/CT study resulted in higher clinical stages in 68 (35.4%) patients and lower clinical stages in 14 (7.3%) patients. The treatment plan was changed in 9% of the patients (n = 18) (definitive versus palliative treatment) and the extension of radiotherapy treatment target volume (PTV) was indicated in 20% of the patients (n = 39) due to the change in clinical lymph node status. PET/CT also detected secondary tumors in 15 (8%) patients. Conclusion: Based on our results, the addition of PET/CT to conventional cross-sectional staging imaging permits a more accurate clinical classification of N and M stages and significantly influences therapeutic decisions. PET/CT imaging also provides a great help in detecting occult second tumors. The results of our Institute harmonize with the international data available in the literature.
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