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Ultrasound offers advantages for long-term lymph node surveillance in high-grade SCC patients


 

EXPERT ANALYSIS FROM the ACMS Annual Meeting

– Ultrasound can be a very effective way to track early nodal metastasis in patients with high-stage cutaneous squamous cell carcinomas, and at a fraction of the cost of other imaging modalities.

ultrasound machine Bogdanhoda/Thinkstock

The technique shows not only abnormal variations in the shape of nodes, but changes in the core and outer density, and vascular patterns, Emily Ruiz, MD, said at the annual meeting of the American College of Mohs Surgery. And over a 2-year surveillance period, this costs thousands less than radiation-based imaging.

Dr. Ruiz, director of the High-Risk Skin Cancer Clinic at Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women’s Cancer Center, Boston, said the standard imaging technique at that center used to be serial CT scans performed at diagnosis and every 6 months thereafter, for 2 years. But recently, the protocol changed: Ultrasound is now the preferred technique.

“The big problem with CT in this earlier disease, is that it can only identify the nodes that are enlarged, and doesn’t tell us anything about the etiology. Ultrasound, on the other hand, looks at a number of different features of the node.”

Tracking high-risk squamous cell carcinoma patients is a must, she said. “About 4% of people diagnosed with high-risk SCC will develop nodal metastases, and 1.5% of those will die from disease-specific death,” most often from locoregional disease. “So it’s critical to identify nodal diseases early as possible. Earlier identification leads to better outcomes.” Ultrasound simply provides more information about nodal metastasis, Dr. Ruiz added.

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