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Lung cancer

Lung Cancer Diagnosis Tool Safe for Older Patients

A 2014 study done at the University Hospital of South Manchester in the UK has found that a procedure to take tissue samples from lung cancer patients can be used safely in the elderly, allowing doctors to make a more accurate diagnosis and to choose appropriate treatment. The results were published their results in the Journal of Thoracic Oncology.

A release from the university notes that half of all lung cancer patients are over 70 years old when first diagnosed, but studies have shown that these older patients are less likely to receive an accurate diagnosis.
A correct assessment of the stage of a patient’s disease – how much the tumor has grown and spread – is key to ensuring that the person receives the right treatment.

Non-invasive methods of checking whether a patient’s cancer has spread to the lymph nodes have limited sensitivity and until recently the only way to obtain a tissue sample was under general anesthetic, limiting its use in elderly patients who often present with other conditions that may restrict the use of general anesthesia.

The researchers looked at a newer technique: endobronchial ultrasound-guided transbronchial needle aspiration (EBUS-TBNA). This method is carried out under sedation while the patient is still conscious and uses ultrasound to guide a sampling needle down and through the airways of the lungs.

The release quotes lead researchers Dr. Richard Booton, Consultant Respiratory Physician at the North West Lung Centre and senior lecturer at the University’s Institute of Inflammation and Repair, as saying, “We wanted to see if there were any differences between patients aged less than 70 years old and those older than 70, in terms of both the safety of the technique and how useful it was for diagnosis.”

The procedure was well tolerated at all ages, even in those patients over 80 years old. The team also showed that EBUS-TBNA is effective for assessing whether a patient’s tumor had spread to the lymph nodes.
“Being able to safely take tissue samples will also allow us to test for specific tumor sub-types and better decide the most appropriate treatment for each individual patient,” added Dr. Booton.

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