Detecting Lung Disease

April 28, 2008 12:00:00 AM PDT
This year alone, 200,000 new cases of lung cancer will be diagnosed in the United States. That used to mean a painful, invasive procedure. Now, there's a new technique that can provide important answers, sometimes within minutes.For Will Kirkland, cooking meals for seniors and the homeless is therapy. A lung problem makes even simple activities painful.

"They told me I have a mass in my lung and what it's doing it's fighting against my lung and keep me from breathing in and out like I'm supposed to," Kirkland says.

But is it cancer? To find out, will is undergoing a new procedure called endobronchial. The flexible bronchoscope with a mini ultrasound probe at the end is placed down the windpipe. This allows the doctor to see outside the bronchial tube and into the lung area. Bronchoscopy alone couldn't do that.

"It would almost be like going into a tunnel and needing to see the fish outside the tunnel you're not going to see em, but endobronchial ultrasound allows us to see through the walls of the tunnel," says M. Douglas Mullins, M.D., a pulmonologist at St. Joseph's/Candler Hospital in Savannah, Ga.

A needle passed through the scope takes tissue samples which go straight to the pathologist standing by. Dr. Mullins says this technique is less invasive and yields quicker results than traditional biopsies.

"This is good for the patients," Dr. Mullins says.

Kirtland's results: no cancer. He has a treatable inflammatory disease called sarquidosis.

"I think we'll see Will gain some weight and start doing better probably in a couple weeks," Dr. Mullins says.

For Kirtland's wife Melody ? good news? and some very happy tears.

Seventy- five percent of the time, when lung cancer is diagnosed it's at an advanced stage. Dr. Mullins says this new procedure may not let doctors diagnose lung cancer earlier, but it does allow them to make a diagnosis without surgery.

FOR MORE INFORMATION, PLEASE CONTACT:

Nancy N. and J.C. Lewis Cancer & Research Pavilion
St. Joseph's/Candler Hospital
(800) 622-6877


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