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Less Invasive Way to Stage Lung Cancer Shows Promise
Date:2/5/2008

Needle aspiration procedures worked as well as standard, invasive method

TUESDAY, Feb. 5 (HealthDay News) -- Less invasive approaches for determining how far lung cancer has spread may be better than traditional, invasive procedures.

Although the finding, published in the Feb. 6 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association, needs to be confirmed, it may point to a new era for people with lung cancer or suspected lung cancer.

"Currently, most patients in the U.S. who have lung cancers get a surgical procedure to determine if the cancer has spread to the lymph nodes," explained study author Dr. Michael Wallace, a professor of medicine at the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine in Jacksonville, Fla. "This study suggests that a less invasive set of procedures are highly accurate and less invasive than surgical procedures, and therefore might be an alternative."

Lung cancer is the number one cancer killer in the United States. While early detection is key, proper staging, which primarily involves determining if the malignancy has spread to the lymph nodes, is important for therapy and prognosis.

For people whose cancer is still confined to the lungs and certain lymph nodes, surgery is the recommended treatment. But the benefit of surgery is less clear for patients whose cancer has spread further.

"If the cancer has already spread to the lymph nodes in the middle of chest, you can't cure it [with surgery], so it's very important to know if it has spread to those lymph nodes," explained Norman Edelman, chief medical officer for the American Lung Association. "This so-called mediastinoscopy [which requires general anesthesia] is considered the gold standard although . . . there are some nodes that are hard to get this way."

"Could this replace mediastinoscopy? Yes, it could, but right now the doctors would have to make a judgment," added Edelman. "We don't have the absolute fin
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