Published on September 17, 2019
Page Last Modified: September 22, 2019
Though medical science has come a long way in its understanding of malignant mesothelioma, it still has a long way to go. The rare and deadly form of cancer that is caused by exposure to asbestos is notoriously difficult to treat. It can also be difficult to diagnose. With this in mind, researchers from Canada have completed a study on the use of an ultrasound-guided needle biopsy procedure that can both definitively rule out the presence of malignant mesothelioma and eliminate surgeries for those whose illness is not advanced enough to need it.
Lymph nodes behind breast bone provide crucial information
Immediately behind the breast bone is the central cavity of the thoracic region: it is called the mediastinum and it contains lymph nodes that are among the first to show signs of malignant mesothelioma. When physicians want to determine whether mesothelioma cells are present in these nodes, they perform an invasive procedure in which a camera is used to guide extraction of cells from the lymph node. This process is part of staging the patient’s disease.
The Canadian researchers determined that a less invasive procedure called EBUS-TBNA, or ultrasound-guided needle biopsy, can provide the same information while exposing the patient to much lower risk of adverse effects and subjecting them to less pain.
Presence or absence of mesothelioma cells in lymph node determines next steps
Once the biopsy determines that mesothelioma cells are present or absent, doctors are able to make a better-informed decision as to whether a patient would benefit from surgery or whether chemotherapy alone will provide enough of a benefit. The EBUS-TBNA procedure has proven remarkably precise in its ability to detect cells that have been shed from pleural mesothelioma tumors.
The study that determined the usefulness of this procedure in staging mesothelioma patients included 48 patients who underwent mesothelioma surgery. The ultrasound-guided procedure indicated that 35 percent had Stage 2 or 3. It proved 100 percent accurate in its ability to determine when mesothelioma was not present, and was an effective tool in identifying patients for whom surgery was not a good choice.
Technology continues to improve physicians’ ability to provide relief and extended survival for those diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma. If you would like more information on the resources available to those diagnosed with this rare form of cancer, contact the Patient Advocates at Mesothelioma.net at 1-800-692-8608.