Advancements in medical imaging technology have completely changed the way doctors diagnose and monitor treatment progress in mesothelioma patients. Even just ten years ago, the field of radiology and imaging provided physicians with only a fraction of the capabilities available today.
Modern medical imaging allows doctors and researchers to understand mesothelioma in new and deeper ways, thus informing and shaping the techniques and practices used to treat and manage the disease.
Thousands of mesothelioma and other cancer patients have benefitted from computer-assisted technology that offers a safe, clear, high-resolution, and non-invasive way to view a tumor’s growth and progression. With modern innovations, image-aided diagnostics have become more sensitive, nuanced, and precise—equipping oncologists with a more effective toolset for detecting and intervening in the development of mesothelioma. And with the emergence in recent years of promising new mesothelioma treatments like immunotherapy, novel techniques in imaging are becoming a central part of treatment for many patients.
In the following article, we will take a closer look at how new advances in medical imaging technology are helping doctors provide mesothelioma patients with better care. The information below does not constitute medical advice. Any prospective care or treatment plan should only be pursued if your doctor recommends it as the best course of action based on your individual circumstances.
At Frost Law Firm, PC, we provide experienced legal guidance and advocacy for those diagnosed with mesothelioma after asbestos exposure. To represent our clients most effectively, our attorneys make ongoing efforts to remain informed of all medical and legal developments relevant to our field. If you have questions after a mesothelioma diagnosis you or a loved one received, please contact our office to schedule a free case evaluation with a mesothelioma lawyer.
What Is Medical Imaging?
Medical imaging, or radiology, refers to a number of different types of technologies used in the medical field. It is a way to see inside the human body without resorting to a more physically aggressive option like surgery.
Different forms of medical imaging can be used to diagnose, analyze, monitor, treat, and track treatment progress of a health condition. For decades, imaging has been essential to the diagnosis of cancers like mesothelioma. And more recently, it has become increasingly instrumental in treating and monitoring the disease.
Types of imaging that can aid the diagnosis of mesothelioma include:
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
- Computerized tomography (CT scan)
- Positron emission tomography (PET scan)
If any abnormalities are noted on the results of an imaging test, a doctor will usually order that a surgical biopsy be conducted. This is a more involved procedure that requires a hospital stay and recovery period. After the biopsy results are obtained, studied, and analyzed in conjunction with previous imaging results, a diagnosis can be confirmed.
Recent Advancements in the Use of Medical Imaging
Progress in the field of radiology and medical imaging is the result of years of continued multidisciplinary research conducted by clinicians, researchers, and scientists of varying specializations.
One of the predominant researchers in the field is Dr. Samuel Armato, a faculty member and committee chair of the University of Chicago Department of Radiology. Dr. Armato and colleagues have devoted years of research to the development of computer-based techniques used in the analysis of medical images and tumor response to therapy.
Dr. Armato focuses particularly on the application of these techniques in mesothelioma treatment, detection, and research. This includes the computerized detection and evaluation of lung nodules through CT scans, the critical analysis of image-based tumor response assessments, and the evaluation of reference standards for research using computer-aided imaging.
In an article published earlier this year, Dr. Armato and colleagues drew attention to the state-of-the-art imaging techniques that are making positive advancements in the field of mesothelioma treatment.
The paper identified medical imaging as a critical component of multiple levels of mesothelioma patient care, including:
- Disease detection
- Disease staging
- Evaluation of treatment options
- Assessment of response to treatments
- Pre-surgical evaluation
- Monitoring and surveillance
The technology used to acquire clear and detailed images is evolving at a rapid pace. But it is not just innovations in the technology itself that are advancing the field. With a more thorough understanding of how the technology works, researchers and practitioners are developing better ways to obtain information from medical images and utilize this data to the benefit of patients.
Medical imaging was a topic of focus at the International Conference of the International Mesothelioma Interest Group (iMig) held in May of last year. Speakers at the conference addressed several issues related to the use of medical imaging in mesothelioma research, management, and treatment. One of the most notable topics was medical imaging’s role in updating the mesothelioma staging system, which we will discuss further below. Other study findings presented included:
- Tumor measurement strategies and how they correlate with patient survival rates
- Tumor volume measurement using MRI and CT scans
- Using CT scans for texture analysis to differentiate histologic subtypes of tumors
- The use of medical imaging in immunotherapy as a mesothelioma treatment
- The role of diffusion-weighted MRI imaging in assessing biphasic (mixed type) mesothelioma
It’s apparent that the role of medical imaging in mesothelioma patient management has extended far beyond the limited scope of early X-rays. One of the largest current undertakings in the field of mesothelioma research was only made possible by advancements in radiology. This project aims to use higher-quality clinical imaging to more accurately diagnose and assess the stages of the disease.
High-Resolution Medical Imaging and the Mesothelioma Staging System
Staging is a system to determine how advanced a cancer is. Over the past several years, much of the research dedicated to furthering the benefits of imaging technology in the treatment of mesothelioma has been centralized in a major project to revitalize the mesothelioma staging system. The mesothelioma staging system that is currently accepted in the medical community (the eighth edition of this classification system) is divided into four stages based on the extent of the cancer’s development.
Staging plays an integral role in decision-making regarding treatment and care. Mesothelioma is a complex disease that, in many ways, is still considered “elusive” when it comes to accurate staging and diagnosis. The current staging project is a complex, multidisciplinary scientific effort involving numerous clinicians and researchers from many notable institutions.
Research involves comparing tumor volume readings taken from machinery typically used in mesothelioma diagnosis against images taken from more advanced, high-precision medical imaging equipment in research labs. Images are then further analyzed in consideration of actual biopsied tumor findings. The goal is to calibrate a standardized system that allows diagnosticians to assess the growth of cancer cells more accurately and precisely.
In a research report titled “Narrative review of staging and diagnosis of malignant pleural mesothelioma” published this year, Dr. Sean Jordan of the University of Tennessee Medical Center and colleagues concluded that, while mesothelioma remains a challenge to diagnose and treat, the increased integration of advanced imaging techniques are making great progress in diagnostic capabilities. The report stated: “Advancements in diagnosis will predictably go hand-in-hand with more precise staging systems that will overall improve prognostication and survival.”
Expert Legal Guidance for Mesothelioma Patients
At Frost Law Firm, PC, we are committed to building a future for our children and grandchildren in which mesothelioma is no longer a fear. We are encouraged by the innovation and dedication put forth by scientists, physicians, and researchers who are changing the way we look at and treat this disease. As a legal practice representing victims of asbestos exposure, we work in tandem with these efforts to enhance survival rates and quality of life for mesothelioma patients.
If you or a loved one was diagnosed with asbestos-related cancer, please contact Frost Law Firm, PC to arrange a free case evaluation with one of our legal advocates for mesothelioma patients. A lawyer from our team will be in touch shortly to schedule a meeting.