A recent study shows that Transmission Electron Microscopy (TEM) may be an additional method of diagnosis for malignant pleural mesothelioma. Researchers hope TEM will make diagnosing mesothelioma easier.
Pathologists using a standard microscope often have a difficult time distinguishing between mesothelioma and lung adenocarcinoma. Mutated cells along with symptoms of both types of cancer often mimic each other. Pleural effusions, dyspnea, chest pain, and fatigue are common symptoms of both cancers.
Transmission Electron Microscopy
Transmission Electron Microscopy (TEM) was first introduced in 1931. However, it wasn’t until 1986, when physicist Ernst Ruska was awarded the The Nobel Prize for the development of the Transmission Electron Microscope, that it was used for diagnostic purposes. A Transmission Electron Microscope is costly, bulky, and requires special care.
TEM is a tool used where high energy beams of electrons are transmitted through a thin tissue sample, the sample is modified and then magnified using fluorescence. It allows for very small samples to be observed in subcellular space. These specimens are often broken down to atomic resolution.
A standard microscope uses light and magnifying lenses to examine tissue samples. TEM uses electrons to form highly magnified images of specimens, allowing the observer to see more detail. Thus, allowing a pathologist to distinguish between different types of cancer cells more easily.
Importance of Early Diagnosis
Using a Transmission Electron Microscope could help doctors diagnose mesothelioma patients earlier. Even though a treatment plan for pleural mesothelioma and lung adenocarcinoma may be similar, the sooner the diagnosis is made, the better the prognosis.
Patients often go through a multitude of diagnostic testing, lasting approximately 2-3 months, before receiving a tissue biopsy. A recent study showed that almost half of patients with a pleural malignancy have a negative CT scan, furthering the delay in diagnosis.
Patients diagnosed with stage 1-2 mesothelioma have more treatment options and are more likely to be surgical candidates. Often times when patients are diagnosed by an inexperienced oncologist, patients are told they are stage 3 or 4 when in fact, they are really a lesser stage.
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- Transmission Electron Microscopy. Youtube. Retrieved from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fQJYuTpK8Fs. Accessed: 01/19/17.
- Asbestos fibres detected by scanning electron microscopy in the gallbladder of patients with malignant pleural mesothelioma (MPM). Journal of Microscopy. Retrieved from: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/jmi.12517/full. Accessed: 01/19/17.
- The diagnostic performance of routinely acquired and reported computed tomography imaging in patients presenting with suspected pleural malignancy. Lung Cancer. Retrieved from: http://www.lungcancerjournal.info/article/S0169-5002(16)30526-8/pdf. Accessed: 01/19/17.
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