What is the role of imaging studies in the workup of oral malignant melanoma?

Updated: Jan 31, 2020
  • Author: Elizabeth Ann Bilodeau, DMD, MD, MSEd; Chief Editor: Jeff Burgess, DDS, MSD  more...
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Imaging studies, such as computed tomography (CT) scanning, may be of benefit in determining the extent of the tumor when contrast enhancement is used. Contrast-enhanced CT can be used to determine the extent of the melanoma and whether local, regional, or lymph node metastasis is present.

Studies such as bone scanning with a gadolinium-based agent and chest radiography can be beneficial in assessing metastasis.

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is used to diagnose melanoma in soft tissue. Atypical intensity is correlated with the amount of intracytoplasmic melanin. On T1-weighted images, such melanomas are hypointense. On T2-weighted images, such melanomas are hyperintense and show increased melanin production. To the author's knowledge, oral melanomas are not assessed in this manner.

Positron emission tomography (PET) has poor results in distinguishing melanoma from nevi. However, combined PET-CT scanning may have diagnostic value and may be used in postsurgical follow-up as a monitor for recurrence. [14]

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