Study Reveals Weakness of Video-Assisted Pleural Biopsy for Mesothelioma Diagnosis

When a patient is suspected of having malignant pleural mesothelioma, speed is of the essence. The physician’s goal is to confirm the diagnosis as quickly as possible so that they can devise the most effective treatment protocol for the patient’s specific condition. One of the most frequently-used tools in staging this rare and fatal form of cancer is to take a tissue sample from the tumor via video-assisted thoracospic surgery, or VATS. Though this video-assisted pleural biopsy has long been highly regarded, a new study out of Japan has revealed significant weaknesses in its accuracy.

Hyogo College of Medicine’s Mesothelioma Research Spotlights Diagnostic Weakness

Though most oncologists will quickly order a video-assisted pleural biopsy when malignant pleural mesothelioma is suspected, oncologists at Hyogo College of Medicine in Japan have recently conducted research on 400 patients suspected of having the aggressive form of asbestos-related cancer, and have found significant vulnerabilities in the accuracy of its results.

Though the cancer doctors found that video-assisted pleural biopsy correctly identified mesothelioma in many patients, those who are in the earliest stages of the disease or whose bodies are reacting with a significant amount of inflammation or growths of fibrous connective tissue around the tumor had a high likelihood of being misdiagnosed. These misdiagnoses can often lead to delays in much-needed treatment.

Study Warns Physicians That Video-Assisted Pleural Biopsy Results Can Be Unreliable

Though the Japanese researchers did not conclude that video-assisted pleural biopsy should be entirely abandoned when malignant pleural mesothelioma is suspected, they did warn physicians who may order the test that though it is advantageous due to its minimally-invasive approach, there are many situations where it falls short of the specific patient’s needs.

In the case of this study, of the 400 patients tested for pleural mesothelioma between 2004 and 2017, roughly 70 percent had that diagnosis confirmed by the testing, but ten percent were misdiagnosed. Approximately 102 were diagnosed with either atypical mesothelial proliferation or non-specific pleuritis, and 9.8 percent of those diagnoses were incorrect and later diagnosed as malignant mesothelioma.

If you or someone you love has been exposed to asbestos and begins to show symptoms suggestive of malignant mesothelioma, then getting accurate diagnostic testing is one of the most important steps you can take. For more information on access to crucial medical resources, contact the Patient Advocates at today at 1-800-692-8608.

Terri Heimann Oppenheimer

Terri Oppenheimer

Terri Heimann Oppenheimer is the head writer of our news blog. She graduated from the College of William and Mary with a degree in English. Terri believes that knowledge is power and she is committed to sharing news about the impact of mesothelioma, the latest research and medical breakthroughs, and victims’ stories.

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