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Could surgery provide more accuracy in mesothelioma diagnoses?

Although mesothelioma has been affecting people for several decades, doctors and researchers still have much to learn about the deadly disease. For example, one of the standard diagnostic tests for pleural mesothelioma often returns a false negative result, delaying the critical treatments that patients need to survive.

But according to a recent study from doctors and researchers in Japan, a more radical test method may provide greater accuracy in pleural mesothelioma diagnoses, allowing patients to receive treatment more quickly. However, the test includes a surgical procedure, which may be difficult for some of the more fragile patients to undergo.

One of the first clinical signs of pleural mesothelioma is the buildup of fluid between the layers of the membrane that encases the lungs, known as the pleura. If this is the case, doctors perform a pleural effusion cytology, drawing some of the pleural fluid and testing it for cancer cells.

Unfortunately, this test gives a false negative result in about half of all mesothelioma cases, according to the Japanese researchers. Therefore, they recommend that doctors perform a surgical procedure known as a thoracoscopic pleural biopsy if mesothelioma is suspected but the initial test came back negative.

Even more drastic is the recommendation that patients undergo a total parietal pleurectomy, during which the surgeon removes the outer layer of the pleura altogether. But the researchers admit that this is an extreme measure that should not be taken on patients in fragile health.

It is not known whether doctors in Madison County or elsewhere in the U.S. have or will begin performing biopsies as standard procedures. We hope that additional research will soon be completed on the efficacy of these tests.

Source: Surviving Mesothelioma, "Surgery Provides Better Mesothelioma Diagnosis for Some Patients," Jan. 17, 2012

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