One of the most widely-acknowledged challenges of treating mesothelioma patients is the fact that the disease is rarely diagnosed at its earliest stages: the disease develops and takes hold without manifesting any signs of its presence, and by the time symptoms do arise they are often mistaken for other conditions. By the time an accurate diagnosis is made, the tumors have not only taken hold, they have metastasized to other areas of the body. Scientists have long searched for a way to diagnose mesothelioma earlier, and now researchers from Stockholm’s Karolinska University Hospital believe they may have found in one of the disease’s earliest symptoms. By searching pleural effusions found in patients’ lungs, they are able to identify mesothelioma cells, allowing them to start earlier treatment and provide patients with more effective treatment.
The cancer researchers described the outcomes of their mesothelioma study in an article published in the Archives of Pathological and Laboratory Medicine, writing that by extracting the fluid cells instead of tissue cells derived from a biopsy, they were able to make an earlier diagnosis. “Despite the difficulties in recognizing malignant cells present in those early effusions, they are often the first available biologic material for diagnosis.” This means that a definitive diagnosis can be made based on highly specific cellular information, providing a basis for a highly targeted treatment approach.
The research that the Swedish researchers conducted was based on retrospective information derived from dozens of mesothelioma patients treated between 2004 and 2013. They evaluated each case to determine whether material found in lung fluid drawn when the patients first presented would have provided adequate information for an accurate diagnosis. They concluded that it not only had a “high positive predictive value,” but that had it been used the patients would likely have had a better outcome. According to lead author Anders Hjerpe, MD, PhD., “With the earlier diagnosis obtained by cytology, a better effect of chemotherapy can be expected, as shown by the longer overall survival in these patients compared with those with a histopathologic diagnosis.”
Earlier diagnosis leads to better outcomes for mesothelioma patients. The Patient Advocates at Mesothelioma.net are dedicated to improving the lives of people diagnosed with asbestos-related diseases. For information on how we can help you, contact us at 1-800-692-8608.