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Mesothelioma Biopsies

Just before a final diagnosis of mesothelioma is made, oncologists will typically order a biopsy to confirm the stage of the disease and the best treatment path.

A biopsy is an essential part of an overall mesothelioma diagnosis because it allows doctors to pinpoint the type of cells involved in the disease. Doctors are able to take a small sample of fluid or tissue from the suspected area to make a positive mesothelioma diagnosis and to get critical details about the disease process.

Depending on the type and location of the patient’s suspected mesothelioma, one of two types of biopsies – needle or surgical – is used. Typically, patients who are suspected to have peritoneal mesothelioma undergo a needle biopsy; those with suspected pleural mesothelioma undergo a surgical procedure.

During a biopsy, tissue is removed to be studied. This procedure is usually minimally invasive, typically done in an outpatient facility. Depending on which type of procedure is ordered, a local or general anesthesia is used. Once extracted, the sample is sent to a laboratory for further examination. A pathologist examines the samples under a microscope, uses a variety of scientific tests to reveal the cell types and other features and writes a detailed report about the findings.

Even though the method to extract samples is different depending on the type of biopsy that’s used, the end goal is the same -- determining if the sample contains mesothelioma cells or not.

Needle Biopsy

Also called a fine-needle biopsy or fine-needle aspiration (FNA), this procedure is often used in cases of suspected peritoneal mesothelioma. For this, doctors use a long, hollow needle to remove a sample. To perform the procedure, a doctor will first clean the skin and possibly numb the area. In some cases, doctors will use an ultrasound to locate the tumor. Once the fluid is extracted, only a small bandage is necessary. The sample is then sent to a laboratory, where it is smeared onto a microscope slide and examined.

There are rarely any complications and only minimal pain associated with this quick procedure. There is only a slim chance that an infection can occur. Soreness and slight bleeding are the only reported complications. It is important that a skilled doctor perform the procedure to ensure that the best cell sample is extracted. Contact our patient advocates now to find the best doctors in your area.

Surgical Biopsy

Commonly known as a thoracoscopic biopsy or an open pleural biopsy, this procedure is known to be a highly accurate tool for diagnosing mesothelioma. Normally performed under general anesthesia, this is used to examine the lungs in suspected cases of pleural mesothelioma. Many doctors today are opting for video-assisted thoracoscopic surgery (VATS), which allows doctors to more precisely pinpoint problematic areas.

For the procedure, the patient is placed on a ventilator to assist in breathing, and a small incision is made in the space between the lungs. The lung in question is deflated to ensure there is enough space for the procedure. A thin tube that has a video camera and mirrors attached, called a pleurascope, is inserted and tissue samples are removed. Once completed, a drainage tube is inserted in the chest area to remove any collected fluids and release gas and air buildup. The surgical incision is closed with stitches or staples, and the patient is removed from the ventilator. The procedure is generally complication free, however there is a risk of blood clots.

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