Mesothelioma is a death sentence to most who receive the diagnosis. Taking decades to develop, many visit the doctor after suffering from shortness of breath not realizing past asbestos exposure sealed their fate.
Many tests exist to determine the mesothelioma diagnosis, such as imaging and bloodwork, but a tissue biopsy and cell examination remain the only ways to confirm suspicion.
The common practice for final diagnosis is a thoracoscopy. This procedure involves inserting a small tube (thoracoscope) into an incision in the chest, allowing a doctor to inspect the lungs and area around for any damage and collect tissue for a biopsy.
Some patients cannot undergo a thoracoscopy due to their frail state due to illness. In certain cases, the lung fuses to the chest wall, rendering the procedure impossible.
Scientists in Oxford conducted a study to determine if another method may yield accurate results and work for all patients, regardless of condition. Their solution involved a physician-guided needle biopsy.
Initially unsure if it could remove enough tissue, the researchers did 50 ultrasound-guided biopsies on patients, some receiving thoracoscopies as well and others unable to receive the standard diagnosis technique.
From the sample, 47 retrieved enough tissue to properly diagnose with 13 gathered after a failed thoracoscopy, proving this method is a decent alternative to those unable to have the traditional test.
When diagnosing mesothelioma, every second counts. The disease strikes with a vengeance, often leaving its victims with less than a year to live. Early diagnosis can lead to a longer and better life.
Ahmed, A. et al. (2014). Physician-based ultrasound-guided biopsy for diagnosing pleural disease. NCBI. [Link]
Surviving Mesothelioma. (2014). Needle biopsy an effective alternative for some mesothelioma patients. [Link]
Health Communities. (2013). Thoracoscopy. Lung Surgery. [Link]