Accurate diagnosis and staging of lung cancer is essential for implementing an effective treatment strategy. Thanks to a relatively new diagnostic innovation called Endobronchial Ultrasound, or EBUS, physicians are able to precisely assess a patient's lymph nodes to determine if the lung cancer has spread to other parts of the body. With this "staging" information, the cancer care team can create a more effective treatment plan.
Endobronchial Ultrasound is a minimally invasive procedure that enables the physician to sample lung masses and lymph nodes with the assistance of ultrasound guidance. During this procedure, the physician inserts a tube through the patient's mouth or nose and into the large airways leading to his or her lungs. A special ultrasound probe is then used to send sound waves into the structures of the chest, including the lungs. If there are any areas that look suspicious, the physician uses a special ultrasound probe with a thin aspiration needle to take samples for the pathologist to study. The pathologist will then determine if cancer cells are present.
The EBUS procedure allows the surgeon to have a real-time imaging of the lungs, lymph nodes, blood vessels, and airways. Unlike with traditional methods, the surgeon is able to biopsy smaller areas and hard to reach places. Results are received quickly and more samples can be retrieved if required by the pathologist.
EBUS is a useful tool for lung cancer diagnosis because it helps physicians identify the presence of tumors and/or enlarged lymph nodes in the lungs and chest. Once tumors are identified, this technology enables the physician to biopsy the areas in order to have a clear understanding of what stage the cancer is in. This information is important for developing a treatment plan as well as understanding the general outlook for recovery.
Traditionally, accurate staging and diagnosis of lung cancer required invasive diagnostic procedures. With EBUS, the physician is able to avoid incisions into the body to stage the cancer. This technique allows the medical professional to perform a needle biopsy on lymph nodes using a bronchoscope that is inserted through the mouth. Because there is no incision, patients are able to recover quickly and return home the same day. The EBUS procedure can often be completed within half an hour or less.
With proper staging of the cancer, some patients in the early stages of lung cancer are able to avoid extensive surgery that may not be needed. Others with advanced stages of the disease may choose to avoid surgery all together and pursue disease management. This technology allows patients to avoid surgeries that may not be necessary or effective.
Endobronchial Ultrasound is one of the newest diagnostic innovations available to lung cancer patients. Not all cancer centers have access to this cutting edge technology. It may be necessary to do research so that you can find a cancer treatment center in your area that offers this type of diagnostic tool. With proper diagnosis and staging, your physician is able to create a treatment plan that will give you the best chance for a full recovery.
Laura Mims is a writer for FirstHealth Moore Regional Hospital, which specializes in oncology, cancer care and cancer treatment in Pinehurst, North Carolina.