Purpose We developed a method for predicting truenegative lymph node metastases in clinical IA non-small lung cancer (NSCLC) by the combined evaluation of computed tomography (CT), 2-[18F]-fluoro-2-deoxy-D-glucose positron emission tomography (FDG-PET) findings and the maximum standardized uptake value (SUVmax) of primary tumors. Methods The subjects of this study were 94 patients with clinical stage IA NSCLC who underwent both preoperative CT and FDG-PET. We analyzed the relationship between the SUVmax of primary tumors and various clinicopathological factors to find the best method available for assessing true-negative lymph node metastasis. Results The pathological stages were IA (n = 80), IB (n = 4), IIA (n = 5), IIIA (n = 4), and IV (n = 1). Pathologic lymph node metastasis was recognized in nine patients and the SUVmax of these tumors ranged from 3.3 to 20.3. A SUVmax of 3.0 was defined as the cut-off point and patients were dichotomized according to this point. Tumors with SUVmax of 3.0 or less were associated with a significantly lower incidence of pleural and vascular invasion and were characterized by the degree of differentiation. Conclusion The SUVmax of primary tumors reflects the grade of malignancy; therefore, the combined evaluation of FDG-PET/CT findings with the SUVmax of primary tumors may help predict lymph node metastasis negativity.
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