Mesothelioma is a rare and fatal form of cancer that can be difficult to diagnose. The condition is diagnosed in approximately 3,500 patients a year.
One of the difficulties in diagnosing the disease is that one of the only definitive diagnostic tools is a surgical biopsy that may be too invasive and difficult for some patients.
Now, a new study conducted by researchers at the Centre for Respiratory Medicine at Oxford University found that a much less invasive procedure may be used to good effect.
Although scientists have long been familiar with the less-invasive method called cutting-needle biopsy, there were concerns that the small tissue sample that it yielded would not provide enough usable information as compared to the more invasive procedure known as thoracoscopy, which yields a larger sample.
The researchers analyzed the results of fifty different ultrasound guided cutting-needle biopsies that had been performed at their venue, and determined that for certain patients whose treatment is challenged by specific aspects of their physical condition, the less invasive procedure provided a better alternative.
“Thoracoscopy is not always possible in frail patients, if pleural fluid is heavily loculated, or where the lung is adherent to the chest wall. Such cases can be converted during the same procedure as attempted thoracoscopy to cutting-needle biopsy,” lead author Rob Halifax, MSc, said
The study found that of the fifty patients analyzed, in 84% of the cases the samples that were taken during cutting needle biopsy were able to provide a clear enough result to either diagnose mesothelioma or eliminate it as a possibility. Results were published in the journal, “Chest.”
Mesothelioma is an aggressive disease, and the key to having the most options available is to diagnose it as early as possible. Having the possibility of being able to get a sufficient tissue sample from a biopsy, even in the midst of a failed thoracoscopy, offers these patients improved chances for longer survival rates and improved quality of life.