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Q. Can liver metastasis be confirmed in a CT scan?

Answered by
Dr. Senduran N
and medically reviewed by iCliniq medical review team.
This is a premium question & answer published on Dec 21, 2019

Hello doctor,

Can a CT scan identify liver metastasis?

Dr. Senduran N

Family Physician General Practitioner


Welcome to

Yes, CT (computed tomography) scan can detect suspected primary tumor or metastasis in the liver. However, it is not confirmatory, a biopsy is needed to say its malignant origin if the primary tumor is not already found in other organs.

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Thank you doctor,

I am a little confused as the CT scan showed a lesion of 15 mm in the liver. The radiologist stated appearances keeping with disease progression. But my father's oncologist now said they are not sure what it is and wish to do a PET scan?

Dr. Senduran N

Family Physician General Practitioner


Welcome back to

Yes, his oncologist is correctly saying to go for a PET (positron emission tomography) scan which are carried out safely prior to any surgical interventions either diagnostic or for therapeutic purposes like fine-needle aspiration biopsy, surgical resection respectively. CT scan or MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) can indicate the anatomic location reliably but to say functional state of the lesion (either benign or malignant) PET scan is required.

If the lesion is malignant, it will lit up under a PET scan. Apart from diagnosis, this modality can also be used as an adjunct in staging cancer. A combined CT and PET scan is commonly used for detecting liver malignancies and metastasis. But biopsy is considered as the last option if other modalities fail to prove.

Radiologist could have given his opinion if your father was diagnosed with any other primary malignancies like colon cancer priorly (thinking that metastasis could be a possibility) or by comparing with the previous imaging study report (like CT scan). Hence, I would advise you to follow the advice of your oncologist who is approaching in the right direction.

I hope this helps.

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