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Is a test used to diagnose mesothelioma working as it should?

Those who suffer from or have a loved one battling mesothelioma know that a fast diagnosis can be the key to a successful treatment plan. A recent study questions the accuracy of a medical procedure used to aid in diagnosis.

Oncologists use video-assisted thoracic surgery (VATS) to help diagnose malignant pleural mesothelioma. But, does it work as well as they say?

What is VATS?

VATS is a minimally invasive surgery that uses small incisions in a person's chest to gather tissue samples. It may seem crazy to call any type of chest surgery “minimally invasive,” but it makes sense when compared with other testing methods. VATS uses three small incisions rather than one large (6 to 8-inch) incision, which is what a traditional chest surgery involves.

Once the incisions are made, medical professionals use video cameras to help guide surgical instruments through the chest cavity to take biopsies for testing.

How effective is the VATS testing process?

Researchers at Hyogo College of Medicine found that VATS was successful in diagnosing the disease in many patients. However, they also found that about 10% were misdiagnosed. The test appears to be less reliable in two specific areas:

  • Early stages of mesothelioma: The researchers explained that the procedure had a high likelihood of misdiagnosing those who were in the earliest stages of the illness. This is concerning, as a correct diagnosis in the early stages could aid the ability of medical professionals to put together a successful treatment plan.
  • Significant inflammation. The study also reports a higher rate of misdiagnosis for patients who experienced a lot of inflammation near the tumor.

What does this mean for those who suffer from mesothelioma?

If one of the tests often used to diagnose mesothelioma is wrong some of the time, mesothelioma patients may not get the treatment they desperately need. This is only one of many difficulties disease victims and their families can face.

However, the study involved a relatively small group of people. Data was analyzed from only 400 patients. Additional study is required to fully understand how effective (or ineffective) VATS is in diagnosing mesothelioma.

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