Researchers have come up with a less invasive way to determine if lung nodules are likely cancerous or benign – by testing for certain blood markers.
There are around 1.6 million lung nodules detected by doctors each year in the U.S. Determining if these nodules are cancer or not requires further testing, with most doctors relying on invasive biopsies. Many doctors go even further and perform surgery to remove the nodules – without knowing if they are malignant.
Lungs are fragile organs and these invasive procedures can lead to complications, even if no lung cancer is present. But according to Dr. Gerard Silvestri, of the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston, there may be a better way to rule our benign nodules and thereby drastically reduce the need for painful and invasive procedures.
He and his team developed a way to test for biomarkers in blood that would indicate how likely a nodule is malignant. The study results were published in the April 2018 edition of the journal Chest.
Dr. Silvestri is quoted on Medical News Today as saying:
Our goals for this biomarker are to help calculate the risk of cancer, present the patient with options and recommendations, and avoid subjecting patients with benign disease to expensive, unnecessary, and intrusive procedures.
According to the published findings, this new lung cancer blood test methodology performed better than current diagnostic practices and “if the integrated classifier results were used to direct care, 40% fewer procedures would be performed on benign nodules, and 3% of malignant nodules would be misclassified.”
In other words, had the blood test Dr. Silvestri’s team studied been used to inform patient care, 40% fewer invasive procedures would have taken place in people with harmless (benign) nodules.
Dr. Silvestri and team believe this testing would give doctors more confidence in how they’re managing patient care. He and his team are now recommending a “clinical utility study to assess how clinical decision-making and use of invasive procedures are altered with knowledge of the results of [the recently studied] test.”
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