Diagnostic accuracy of MRI, CT, and [18F]FDG-PET-CT in detecting lymph node metastases in clinically early-stage cervical cancer — a nationwide Dutch cohort study

Ester P. Olthof, Brenda J. Bergink-Voorthuis, Hans H. B. Wenzel, Jordy Mongula, Jacobus van der Velden, Anje M. Spijkerboer, Judit A. Adam, Ruud L. M. Bekkers, Jogchum J. Beltman, Brigitte F. M. Slangen, Hans W. Nijman, Ramon G. V. Smolders, Nienke E. van Trommel, Petra L. M. Zusterzeel, Ronald P. Zweemer, Lukas J. A. Stalpers, Constantijne H. Mom, Maaike A. van der Aa

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Objectives: Imaging is increasingly used to assess lymph node involvement in clinically early-stage cervical cancer. This retrospective study aimed to evaluate the diagnostic accuracy of MRI, CT, and [18F]FDG-PET-CT. Methods: Women with International Federation of Gynaecology and Obstetrics (FIGO) 2009 stage IA2-IIA cervical cancer and pretreatment imaging between 2009 and 2017 were selected from the Netherlands Cancer Registry. Patient-based and region-based (i.e. pelvic and common iliac) nodal status was extracted from radiology reports. Pathology results were considered the reference standard for calculating accuracy indices. Multiple imputation was used for missing pathology to limit verification bias risk. Results: Nodal assessment was performed in 1676 patients with MRI, 926 with CT, and 379 with [18F]FDG-PET-CT, with suspicious nodes detected in 17%, 16%, and 48%, respectively. [18F]FDG-PET-CT was used to confirm MRI/CT results in 95% of patients. Pathology results were imputed for 30% of patients. [18F]FDG-PET-CT outperformed MRI and CT in detecting patient-based nodal metastases with sensitivities of 80%, 48%, and 40%, and AUCs of 0.814, 0.706, and 0.667, respectively, but not in specificity: 79%, 92%, and 92%. Region-based analyses showed similar indices in the pelvic region, but worse performance in the common iliac region with AUCs of 0.575, 0.554, and 0.517, respectively. Conclusions: [18F]FDG-PET-CT outperformed MRI and CT in detecting nodal metastases, which may be related to its use as a verification modality. However, MRI and CT had the highest specificity. As MRI is generally performed routinely to assess local and regional spread of cervical cancer, [18F]FDG-PET-CT can be used to confirm suspicious nodes. Critical relevance statement: Accurate assessment of the nodal status in clinically early-stage cervical cancer is essential for tumour staging, treatment decision making and prognosis. Key points: • The accuracy of MRI, CT or [18F]FDG-PET-CT for nodal staging in early cervical cancer is a subject of discussion. • Overall, [18F]FDG-PET-CT outperformed MRI, followed by CT, when used as a verification modality. • Staging with MRI and the addition of [18F]FDG-PET-CT to verify high-risk cases seems to be a good approach. Graphical Abstract: (Figure presented.)
Original languageEnglish
Article number36
JournalInsights into imaging
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2024


  • Diagnostic imaging
  • Lymphatic metastasis
  • Sensitivity and specificity
  • Uterine cervical neoplasms

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