Sending a biopsied tissue sample to a lab for evaluation under a tabletop microscope is currently the most reliable way to obtain a mesothelioma diagnosis.
But soon there may be a way that’s even better — a miniaturized microscope that inserts right into your body. It offers cancer doctors a direct look at suspicious growths.
The new technology appears capable of eliminating the need for most biopsies.
It also is expected to greatly speed up the time it now takes to get diagnostic results. With lab-evaluated biopsy tissue, it can be days or even weeks before it’s known whether mesothelioma is present.
Using this new type of microscope, a mesothelioma diagnosis potentially could be made on the spot.
It also could be much more reliable than a biopsy. Often, a mesothelioma biopsy must be repeated because the specimen quality isn’t up to snuff or the in-lab testing has run into some kind of snag.
Promoters of the new microscope say those issues won’t arise with this device.
The microscope isn’t much bigger than the head of a pin, so there shouldn’t be much in the way of pain or discomfort when it’s used, they assure.
Not Yet Available For Mesothelioma Diagnosis
Known as an endomicroscope, the device is not yet available for diagnosing mesothelioma but is being used to detect pancreatic cancer — a distant cousin of peritoneal mesothelioma and occupying much the same anatomical area.
The endomicroscope goes by the brand name Cellvizio. Mauna Kea Technologies in France makes it. Cellvizio has already received 510(k) clearance from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for use in the gastrointestinal and pulmonary tracts.
The tiny microscope affords a view of individual cells and the blood vessels that run between them — a feat not possible when tumor tissue samples are placed under a conventional microscope.
As a result, doctors can readily recognize whether they’re dealing with cancer in an early or late stage.
That’s important because, the earlier a cancer like mesothelioma is diagnosed, the sooner treatment can get started.
And with mesothelioma in particular, shaving even a single day from the wait for a confirmed diagnosis and the start of treatment can help extend mesothelioma survival far beyond the norm.
Peritoneal Mesothelioma Diagnostic Potential
Presently, for patients with suspected pancreatic cancer, the endomicroscope is inserted through the mouth and then guided to the target area of the stomach.
A tabletop microscope in the lab provides optical close-ups of the tissue cells of interest. This device doesn’t. Instead, it electronically generates images and shows them on a screen.
The endomicroscope produces these images with the aid of a pinpoint laser light emitted from a scanning head. The scanner sits at the tip of the probe that enters through the mouth.
Usually, the images are so clear and definitive that diagnosis is conclusive. However, in about 10 to 20 percent of the exams, the result is inconclusive. A biopsy then becomes necessary.
The procedure is performed under sedation and is completed within thirty minutes. The results are known immediately because the images are created and viewed in real-time.
It may be a while yet before the endomicroscope is added to the instrument armamentarium of the mesothelioma doctors you and others rely on.
But when that day arrives, it will represent a huge step forward for mesothelioma diagnosticians and patients alike.