New, less invasive way to evaluate lymph nodes helps patients at risk of lung cancer

A new, less invasive way to evaluate lymph nodes in patients at risk of lung cancer is finding more tumors within lymph nodes than previous procedures, says Russell K. Hales, M.D., a radiation oncologist, at the Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center on the Johns Hopkins Bayview campus.

To evaluate lymph nodes, lung cancer physicians traditionally used a procedure called mediastinoscopy, in which an incision is made in the middle of the chest to allow a scope to be inserted for evaluation of lymph nodes in that area. Today, Hales says, research on a new procedure shows it can be even more effective in identifying lymph-node tumors in lung cancer patients. Called an endobronchial ultrasound, or EBUS, it has a less invasive process:  Instead of incisions being made in a minor surgery, a bronchoscopy, or a scope, is put through the mouth to allow physicians to go through the windpipe with an ultrasound, and see through the trachea to those lymph nodes.  Biopsy needles can go through the same path, resulting in a same-day procedure that results in far fewer complications, Hales says.

He cautions that “These tests are only helpful if they're as effective as a mediastinoscopy.” A study that compared EBUS to mediastensocopy found that the newer, less invasive procedure detected the cancer in a higher proportion of lung cancer patients. Hales notes that “the person doing the EBUS is also critical. If a physician is new in doing this procedure, it's a flip of a coin, or around 44%, as to whether they'll actually detect tumor,” a number that increases with more experience.

Find out more from Dr. Hales about detecting lung cancer, treatments for it, and innovative new research to help lung cancer patients in the free webinar, Lung Cancer: Serious Treatment for a Serious Cancer.

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