Researchers have possibly found a less invasive way to diagnose pleural mesothelioma. By looking at the patient’s medical history and using CT scans, researchers at the Universite Laval in Quebec have found that imaging technology can be used potentially to benefit very sick patients.
Doctors have never been able to diagnose people with mesothelioma based on their work history and symptoms alone. The same symptoms can point to many different illnesses, so the best way to be sure that the patient has mesothelioma is to do a thoracoscopy to ensure an accurate diagnosis. Some mesothelioma patients can be very sick though and will not be able to undergo the procedure, keeping them from critical medical treatment.
If someone is too sick to undergo a thoracoscopy, he or she could avoid it altogether and still receive the treatment he or she needs. Typically, when someone is being diagnosed with mesothelioma, the person is given a physical exam and his or her medical history is taken. This lets doctors know if the patient was ever exposed to asbestos. Patients also go through imaging studies, which use X-rays and CT scans. The final step is to be given a thoracoscopy to be sure that the person has mesothelioma. A camera is inserted into the chest to see inside the patient’s body as well as show where tissue can be sampled. Once tissue is removed, it can be biopsied, which is the most accurate form of diagnosis that doctors can use. The problem arises when doctors have to use a thoracoscopy on very sick patients. It can do more damage to the patient than the diagnosis would help them.
When looking at the 92 patients in the study, the researchers found that it was potentially easy to find a common symptom among the patients. Patients with a certain level of pleural thickening with asbestos exposurein their work history were more likely to be diagnosed with pleural mesothelioma. The researchers were able to conclude that the significant level of pleural thickening and history of asbestos were associated with a mesothelioma diagnosis. Biopsies are still a much better form of diagnosis, but if a patient is too sick to be biopsied, he or she could potentially be diagnosed with a less invasive alternative.