Do You Really Need That Mesothelioma Surgery? Canadian Study Shows New Lymph Node Test – Maybe Not!

Mesothelioma is a rare and deadly form of cancer caused by exposure to asbestos.  This rare disease can be challenging to treat and to diagnose.  The recent completion of a research study in Canada shows that a new Lymph Node test can rule out the presence of malignant mesothelioma.  Unnecessary surgeries can then be eliminated for patients whose illness has not progressed enough to need them.

This study shows that valuable information can be obtained from a biopsy, using an ultrasound-guided needle from the Lymph nodes directly behind the sternum or breast bone.

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Mediastinal lymph nodes hold the key.

Immediately behind the sternum or breast bone is the mediastinum, or the central cavity of the thoracic region.  This cavity contains a series of lymph nodes.  These lymph nodes are among the first to show signs of malignant mesothelioma.  To determine the stage of a patient’s disease and to determine whether mesothelioma cells are present in these lymph nodes, physicians currently perform an invasive surgical procedure.  A camera is used to guide the physician so they can extract some of the cells from the lymph node. In many cases, there are no malignant mesothelioma cells in the nodes, but the invasive surgery had to take place none the less. 

Researchers in this Canadian study found that a far less invasive procedure called EBUS-TBNA can provide the same information.  EBUS-TBNA is a procedure where an ultrasound-guided needle biopsies the same lymph nodes.  This procedure, however, lowers the risk of adverse effects and reduces the patient’s pain.

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When the doctors can determine whether mesothelioma cells are present or not they can then identify the next steps that should be taken.

With the information obtained from the biopsy, doctors make well-informed decisions.  Doctors are better able to determine if chemotherapy alone is sufficient in the treatment process or whether a patient would benefit more from surgery.

This study shows that the EBUS-TBNA procedure is remarkably precise in its ability to detect cells that have been shed from mesothelioma tumors in the pleura.

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The Canadian study, which included 48 patients proved 100 percent accurate in its ability to determine when mesothelioma was not present and identified that 35% of the patients had Stage 2 or Stage 3 cancer. 

As technology continues to improve, a physicians’ ability to provide relief and extended survival for those diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma is improved as well.  The EBUS-TBNA is an improved tool that has demonstrated very successful results.  

There is hope!

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