Clinical Oncology/Epidemiology

The value of computed tomographic (CT) scan surveillance in the detection and management of brain metastases in patients with small cell lung cancer

Abstract

One hundred and twenty-seven consecutive patients presenting with small cell lung cancer were entered into a whole-brain CT scan surveillance study, starting at presentation and repeating at 3-monthly intervals for 2 years as an alternative to prophylactic cranial irradiation (PCI). The aim of the study was to detect CNS metastases at an early asymptomatic stage in the hope that prompt CNS radiotherapy could achieve long-term control; at the same time unnecessary PCI with its potential long-term morbidity could be avoided. CNS metastases were found in 56 patients (44%) including 16 (13%) at diagnosis and 40 at a median of 4 months (range 1-27 months) after completing chemotherapy. No patient developed CNS disease while on chemotherapy. Thirty-six patients were asymptomatic at diagnosis (group A) but 20 developed clinical CNS relapse between scans (group B) (interval relapse). Despite prompt radiotherapy 56% of patients in group A and 60% of patients in group B died with active CNS disease. Likewise, there was no survival difference between patients in group A, group B or those who never developed CNS disease. Regular 3-month CT scan surveillance is therefore not an effective substitute for PCI.

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Hardy, J., Smith, I., Cherryman, G. et al. The value of computed tomographic (CT) scan surveillance in the detection and management of brain metastases in patients with small cell lung cancer. Br J Cancer 62, 684–686 (1990) doi:10.1038/bjc.1990.357

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