Ultrasound is used in hospitals and clinics all the time to help doctors see inside the body. OB/GYN’s use ultrasound to check up on baby during pregnancy. Cardiologists use the same ultrasound technology to locate blood clots. Ultrasound has even been used to assist doctors and nurses with invasive and surgical procedures. Is it possible that this technology could also be used by Oncologists to help manage and treat Mesothelioma?
An Oncologist in Indonesia believes that ultrasound technology can be used to diagnose and assist with the treatment Mesothelioma. It can be used in place of more invasive diagnostic tests that require radiology. In many cases, pleural Mesothelioma can be difficult to diagnose due to the location (the pleural membrane that surrounds the lungs) and the aggressiveness of the cancer. Often times MRI, PET or CT scans are used to diagnose this disease. It is necessary to inject a radioactive contrast into the body to see the cancer. When using ultrasound, radioactive contrast is not needed. Sound waves alone allow the doctors to see the lungs. This is of benefit to the patient, as it doesn’t subject them to unnecessary radiation.
This Indonesian doctor makes the argument that ultrasound is much less invasive, has little to no complications, and is much less expensive. The other benefits to ultrasound are that the unit is portable and it does not require a hospital or clinic for its use.
Dr. C.M. Rumende, with the University of Indonesia Medical Center, has used ultrasound to look at the lungs of people with Mesothelioma. Ultrasound can help clinicians spot abnormalities on the lungs that are common to people with this extremely aggressive form of cancer. Some such abnormalities that can be spotted with ultrasound include pleural effusion (fluid build-up around the lungs), pleural fibrosis, tumor metastasis, peripheral lung tumors, and Mesothelioma (pleural tumors). The benefit to using ultrasound to assist with diagnosis is that it is non-invasive and it can give doctors much more solid evidence of Mesothelioma at earlier onset of the disease.
Ultrasound is also a great tool for complicated surgeries related to Mesothelioma. It can be used as a guide to remove fluid in and around the lungs. It can also be used during tumor biopsies and to place a chest tube. Ultrasound also allows extreme precision during surgery, which increases the chances of a more successful surgery and recovery. In turn, this ends up decreasing the risks of complications related to the surgery.
In many cases, ultrasound is a great tool for assisting physicians with diagnosis and treatment of Mesothelioma. However, as with everything, it does have some limitations. According to Dr. Rumende, ultrasound has not been very useful in spotting problems inside the central area of the thoracic cavity, known as the mediastinum. As technology improves, this may change and the limitations of ultrasound may become less and less.