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Can someone explain SUV values in PET scanning?


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Its an "uptake" value or, as I have been told, the more it glows on the PET the higher the SUV.

That said, PET scans sometimes have a habit of something "glowing" that is not really cancer, ie., infection, inflammation, etc. My onc doesn't like PET scans, did one 2 years ago and he prefers to do CATS now instead of PET scans. From what I understand, they don't even suspect something to be cancer unless the SUV is at least 3.0. In my case, my rt rig showed as 3.3 on the PET and no CAT scan or bone scan has ever picked up on any cancer there again. Now, the PET was correct on my spine and pelvis, but the verdict is still out on my rib.

I am sure more knowledgeable people will come along but I do want to wish your mom lots of good luck and success!! Hang in there, girl!!!

Hugs - Patti B.

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SUV is the abbreviation for "standardized uptake value," which is based on the amount of metabolic activity resulting from the pre-scan injection of irradiated sugar.

My first PET scan in 01/07 showed my 5 cm. tumor had an SUV of 14.4, which was described by radiologist as "intense" hypermetabolic activity.

I afterward underwent concurrent radiation and chemotherapy and by the summer of '07 the tumor had shrunk to 2 cm. By 12/07, however, it had begun to grow again and my second PET scan in 01/08 showed the tumor had an SUV of 9.7, which was descirbed as "homogeneous intense."

My third PET scan, on 04/29/08 stated that the tumor "remains very hypermetabolic" with a maximum SUV of 13.7.

My fourth and last PET scan, on 07/24/08, showed that the SUV remained at 13.7. This scan also measured SUV (much lower #s) for various lymph nodes as well as new nodules in both lungs (also low #s) and "a new markedly hypermetabolic hypodensity in the medial left lobe of the liver measuring approximately 9 mm in diameter with a maximal standardized uptake value of 10.9."

It is my understanding that the higher the SUV, the more aggressive the cancer. In my case, my NSCLC is squamous cell (rather than adenocarcinoma, etc.), which is usually slower growing, but mine, unfortunately, is "poorly differentiated" (a grade 3 tumor), which makes it more aggressive regardless of type.

Sorry I can't be of more help, but I think the SUV numbers have to be looked at in conjunction with the sub-type of lung cancer, the grade of the tumor, etc.

I hope all goes well with your Mom and her treatement.



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  • 12 years later...

I had aPet/scan in 10/2020.My SUV was 43.4 for my 12.3cm tumor.I have stage 3 lymphoma (NHL).After my 4th cycle of chemo,I had another Pet/scan, now my tumor is 2.65cm w/SUV of 4.3. I am learning about SUV. I guess mine started out real aggressive and now its less.Ive got two more cycles to go, hopefully it kills all of it.

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  • 1 year later...

Recent throat biopsy showed squamous cell cancer in right base of tongue. CT scan revealed numerous lymph node involvement too numerous to count. PET scan today revealed metastatic lymphadenopathy in right paratracheal region measuring up to 2 cm in size with Q-SUV of 15. This is relatively new (6 months) before symptoms with poor swallowing. No lesions to pelvis or abdomen. This infiltrative mass extends to right tonsillar pillar, anterior hypopharynx and jugular chain regions. Are these values to be of concern for surgery first or chemo/radiation?

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