Study Suggests Limitations of CT in Pre-Surgical Mesothelioma Patients 

People diagnosed with malignant pleural mesothelioma have limited options for treatment. When deciding whether to pursue surgery they need as much information as possible about their own condition and how far the cancerous cells have spread within their bodies. A recent study from researchers at the University of Pennsylvania has revealed that one of the most commonly used diagnostic tests falls short in providing the information that many of these patients need.

CT Fails to Identify Mesothelioma Cells in Telltale Lymph Nodes

Pleurectomy and decortication is one of the surgical options available to patients with malignant pleural mesothelioma. The procedure spares the affected lung but removes the pleural membrane that surrounds it, as well as other diseased or at-risk tissues. This surgery can be effective, but its curative effects are diminished in patients whose posterior intercostal lymph nodes already contain mesothelioma cells. The posterior intercostal lymph nodes are located between the ribs towards the back of the chest.

Because previous studies have shown that patients whose posterior intercostal lymph nodes contain mesothelioma cells have shorter survival after pleurectomy decortication, researchers from the University of Pennsylvania recently set out to determine whether CT scans performed prior to this surgery reliably detect the presence of mesothelioma cells. They pulled medical records from 36 patients who had the surgery between 2007 and 2013 and presented their preoperative scans to radiologists who were not apprised of whether surgery had revealed cancer in the nodes.

Radiologists Unable to Identify Mesothelioma in Lymph Nodes Using CT Scans

Though 22 of the 36 patients were found to have mesothelioma cells in their posterior intercostal lymph nodes, the radiologists were unable to detect whether the cancer was present or not, in large part because the nodes themselves were not seen. Only an average of two of the patients’ posterior intercostal lymph nodes were able to be viewed by each radiologist, regardless of whether the organs were impacted by the cancer. This makes clear that other tests need to be ordered so that patients and their physicians can make informed decisions about their surgical options.

If you or someone you love has been diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma, you need reliable information and access to top-of-the-line care. For more information, contact the Patient Advocates at today at 

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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