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Removing pulmonary nodules early may save lives

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Lung cancer may be curable by removing the pulmonary nodules early in the development of the deadly disease, according to two radiologists.

Dr David Milne from Aukland DHB Radiology and Dr David Midthun from the US Mayo Clinic said that early evidence of pulmonary nodules may be the first and only point in time where there is a chance of a cure in patients with lung cancer.

However, in a note of caution, they said the majority of the pulmonary nodules were benign, and surgery always carried with it risks.

Dr Milne and Midthun presented a review paper at the 15th World Conference on Lung Cancer, which outlined indicators to accurately classify nodules to help determine whether surgery was possible or appropriate.

The processes incorporated images from CT scans and PET scans to inform decisions about the resection or other treatment of lesions and nodules.

The radiologists said there was evidence that the majority of nodules which are currently excised using surgery are actually benign. They estimated that between 50 and 80 per cent of nodules that get removed would have caused no problems.

“Reductions in surgery for benign nodules can be achieved by simply observing smaller nodules, using the latest scanning techniques to classify nodules, and by capturing historical images that help us assess whether or not nodules are getting larger,” Dr Milne said.

“It is all about using the latest imaging technology to maximise the prospect of better patient health outcomes, while minimising the risks that come from surgery that is likely to achieve little.”

Kirsty Waterford

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