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Researchers at the University Hospital of South Manchester NHS Foundation Trust and the University of Manchester – part of the Manchester Cancer Research Centre – have found that a procedure used to take tissue samples from lung cancer patients can be used safely in patients over 70, allowing doctors to make more accurate diagnoses and choose appropriate treatment.
As over half of all lung cancer patients are over 70 years old when first diagnosed, but recent research has shown that older patients are less likely to receive an accurate diagnosis. If doctor’s were able to give patient’s a better idea about the condition of their disease – how much their tumour has developed and it’s size – they could ensure that the patient gets the right sort of treatment, allowing them to outlive survival rates and prognoses.
Previously, non-invasive methods which check whether a patient with lung cancer has the disease in their lymph nodes have limited sensitivity and until recently, the only way doctors could get a tissue sample to test for the cancer was with the patient under general anaesthetic – something which limited the diagnosing of the cancer in more elderly patients who often have other conditions which restrict the use of general anaesthesia.
The scientists, as part of this study, have 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 ultrasounds to guide a sampling needle down and through the airways of the lungs.
“We wanted to see if there were any differences between patients who were 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 Dr Richard Booton, the Consultant Respiratory Physician at the North West Lung Centre and senior lecturer at the University of Manchester’s Institute of Inflammation and Repair.
The procedure was found to be ‘tolerated well’ by patients of all ages, even those who were over 80. The team also showed that EBUA-TBNA is additionally effective for assessing whether a patient’s tumour had spread to their lymph nodes.
“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 patients,” Dr Booton added.