Current role of bone scan with phosphonates in the follow-up of breast cancer

Lorenzo Maffioli, Luigia Florimonte, Luca Pagani, Ivana Butti, Isabel Roca

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


A number of studies have demonstrated that bone scintigraphy has high sensitivity and efficacy in the early detection of bone metastases from several tumours, including breast cancer. Bone scintigraphy is the most definitive tool for diagnosing and monitoring metastatic spread of breast cancer. However, in the past decade there has been a wide debate on its impact on survival time, morbidity and quality of life. Worldwide economic restrictions and these studies have led to the adoption of an almost minimalist policy for breast cancer follow-up using evidence-based guidelines. The recommended breast cancer surveillance testing includes only a few procedures (history, physical and breast self-examination, patient education on symptoms, pelvic examination). The routine use of additional tests, such as blood cell count, tumour markers, liver ultrasonography, bone scan and chest X-rays, is not recommended. Accordingly, scintigraphy should be reserved for a limited number of patients. On the other hand, early diagnosis of bone involvement may reduce the risk of skeletal related events, thus leading to a significant improvement in quality of life. Furthermore, new drugs (e.g. bisphosphonates) can now delay the onset of bone metastasis and reduce the number of patients who experience skeletal complications. In conclusion, the evidence of the clinical usefulness of bone scintigraphy (to allow early planning of new treatments in advanced disease) has to be re-evaluated, possibly by large randomised prospective trials.

Original languageEnglish
JournalEuropean Journal of Nuclear Medicine and Molecular Imaging
Issue numberSUPPL. 1
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2004


  • Bone metastasis
  • Bone scintigraphy
  • Breast cancer
  • Follow-up
  • Guidelines

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging
  • Radiological and Ultrasound Technology


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