Manchester Researchers Develop Effective Procedure to Diagnose Lung Cancer in Older Patients


The University of Manchester researchers have found a safe and effective procedure to diagnose lung cancer in older patients.

The new technique, involving endobronchial ultrasound-guided transbronchial needle aspiration (EBUS-TBNA), takes out tissue samples from lung cancer patients. The technique is carried out under sedation while the patient is still conscious. It employs ultrasound to guide a sampling needle through the airways of the lungs.

"Being able to safely take tissue samples will also allow us to test for specific tumour sub-types and better decide the most appropriate treatment for each individual patient," Dr Richard Booton, Consultant Respiratory Physician at the North West Lung Centre and senior lecturer at the University's Institute of Inflammation and Repair who led the study, said in a press release.

The researchers believe that this procedure allows doctors to make more accurate diagnosis and to choose appropriate treatment. They said to ensure that the patient receives the right treatment, it is necessary to correctly assess the stage of the disease i.e. the rate at which their tumor is growing.

Nearly 50 percent of all lung cancer patients are above 70 years old when first diagnosed. The existing non-invasive methods, used to determine whether a patient's cancer has spread to their lymph nodes, have limited sensitivity as the only way to obtain a tissue sample is under general anaesthetic. This method is not frequently used in elderly patients as they already suffer from other conditions that limit the use of general anaesthesia.

The EBUS-TBNA procedure has, however, found to be effective at all ages, even in those patients aged above 80 years. It was also able to successfully assess whether a patient's tumour had spread to the lymph nodes.

"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," said Booton.

The finding is published in the Journal of Thoracic Oncology.

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