Malignant mesothelioma is an extremely challenging condition for patients and physicians alike. The disease, which is caused by exposure to asbestos, is always considered fatal: it is highly resistant to standard cancer treatments and is often not diagnosed until it is in an advanced stage within the body.
With these factors driving them, researchers around the world have worked both to find a more effective treatment protocol and to find a way to diagnose the condition earlier so that patients can have a better chance at long-term survival.
Researchers in Western Australia have discovered a way to make that happen. They happened upon a simple method of improving the clarity of the image that they see when a CT scan is performed.
CT scan is one of the most accurate tools available for diagnosing respiratory-related problems, but when it comes to mesothelioma its use has been limited by the unique characteristics of the disease.
Mesothelioma has an extremely long latency period, which means that it can take several decades between exposure to asbestos and the manifestation of symptoms. Even once symptoms appear, they are so similar to those of other conditions that incorrect diagnoses are made, and when CT has been used to seek a diagnosis, early stage mesothelioma has proven difficult to detect.
When mesothelioma is in its earliest stages, it appears as tiny nodules on the surface of the pleural lining. These nodules are often camouflaged by the surrounding pleural fluid because they are similar to each other in density, and when the nodules are missed, the diagnosis is not made.
What the researchers from the University of Western Australia in Perth discovered was that by filling the chest cavity with air prior to conducting a CT scan, it created a greater contrast, thus allowing the nodules to be seen. Upon their detection, doctors can proceed with biopsies that will confirm the diagnosis.
Writing of their discovery in the journal Chest, lead researcher Edward Fysh, PhD. wrote, “Pneumothorax after pleural fluid drainage permitted the visualization of small pleural abnormalities on CT scan, which would be amenable to image-guided biopsies.”
As more groundbreaking discoveries are made by mesothelioma researchers, those who have been diagnosed with the disease have greater chances of survival. For information on resources available to those diagnosed with asbestos-related diseases, contact the Patient Advocates at Mesothelioma.net today at 1-800-692-8608.