Researchers in Sweden believe lung fluid analysis for diagnosis could hold the key to improving mesothelioma survival.

Mesothelioma is a cancer that is notoriously difficult to diagnose and the only method currently providing a solid diagnosis is by lung tissue biopsy. However, scientists think that lung fluid could be more important than we think and could give earlier indications of mesothelioma.

Early diagnosis is crucial

The earlier a diagnosis of mesothelioma is made, the better chance a patient has of a longer survival, with a better quality of life. Treatments for mesothelioma are unable to cure the cancer but they can reduce tumours and slow growth. However, in cases where the diagnosis of mesothelioma are late and the cancer has progressed significantly, treatment options can be extremely limited.

Lung fluid analysis

One of the first symptoms of pleural mesothelioma for a lot of patients is shortness of breath and this can be caused by fluid on the lungs. This can be drained with a relatively simple procedure which is used to alleviate symptoms.

In many cases, patients are unable to undergo a biopsy procedure or the biopsy is unsuccessful, sometimes the tumour is in a position where it cannot be biopsied or is not large enough to take a biopsy. In these circumstances, diagnosis is very difficult.

Researchers hope that by looking at the cytology of lung fluid, they will be able to diagnose mesothelioma much quicker.

Cytology is limited

There are limits to what lung fluid analysis can show. It cannot be used to see how widespread the mesothelioma is, for example, but it can be used in conjunction with other diagnostic tools and the authors of the study have advised that lung fluid analysis should be used more in successfully diagnosing mesothelioma.

They conclude; “Early detection of malignant mesothelioma by integrating cytology and molecular approaches has high sensitivity and positive predictive value and has a major impact on patient survival. Thus, a conclusive positive malignant mesothelioma cytology should lead to treatment without delay.”

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Hjerpe, A, et al, “Integrative approach to cytologic and molecular diagnosis of malignant pleural mesothelioma”, June 2020, Translational Lung Cancer Research,


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