Clinical impact of FDG PET/CT in alimentary tract malignancies: an updated review

Esma A. Akin, The George Washington University
Zain N. Qazi, The George Washington University
Murat Osman, School of Medicine and Health Sciences
Robert K. Zeman, The George Washington University


© 2020, Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature. The use of 18F-fluorodeoxyglucose (FDG) positron emission tomography combined with computed tomography (PET/CT) is well established in the evaluation of alimentary tract malignancies. This review of the literature and demonstration of correlative images focuses on the current role of PET/CT in the diagnosis (including pathologic/clinical staging) and post-therapy follow-up of esophageal, gastric, and colorectal cancers. PET/CT provides utility in the management of esophageal cancer, including detection of distant disease prior to resection. In gastric cancer, PET/CT is useful in detecting solid organ metastases and in characterizing responders vs. non-responders after neoadjuvant chemotherapy, the latter of which have poorer overall survival. In patients with GIST tumors, PET/CT also determines response to imatinib therapy with greater expedience as compared to CECT. For colorectal cancer, PET/CT has proven helpful in detecting hepatic and other distant metastases, treatment response, and differentiating post-radiation changes from tumor recurrence. Our review also highlights several pitfalls in PET/CT interpretation of alimentary tract lesions.