Minimally Invasive Procedure to Gauge Lung Cancer Stage Is Expected to Significantly Reduce Unnecessary Surgeries

A new, minimally invasive procedure may help in the diagnosis of lung cancer stage   thereby preventing unnecessary surgery. Lung cancer is currently the number one cause of cancer death for Americans.

The study, which appears in the August 24/31 issue of The Journal of the American Medical Association, is the result of research by Jouke Annema, MD, PhD at the pulmonary medicine division of Leiden University Medical Center in the Netherlands.

All the 100 subjects in the study were suffering from non-small cell lung cancer, the most common kind according to the American Cancer Society. Two tests were performed on each subject.

The first test, transesophageal ultrasound-guided fine needle aspiration (EUS-FNA), uses ultrasound technology to direct a fine needle through the lung lymph nodes. The needle harvests cells from the lymph nodes, which are then checked for signs of cancer.

The second test, mediastinoscopy, is done by inserting a scope through a tiny hole in the chest to observe the patients’ lungs. This is another means for taking and examining tissue samples.
Although about 2% of the EUS-FNA tests turned up false positives for cancer, doctors believe the new procedure will reduce the number of thoracotomies (partial or total removal of a lung).

Currently as many as 40% of thoracotomies for non-small cell lung cancer were done unnecessarily because of imperfections in determining the extent of the disease prior to surgery.  Researchers conclude about 16% of thoracotomies in their study could have been avoided by using EUS-FNA.

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