Health Alert: Locating lung lesions

NATIONAL - CAT Scans are getting better at picking up lesions in the lungs, cancerous or benign, but tests to biopsy the area aren't always reliable. A new technique that works like a Geiger Counter may be an option.

During a recent CAT Scan, doctors spotted a suspicious lesion in Kenneth Scott's lung.

"As a patient you're frightened, because you know what the potential is," said Scott.

Doctors had to check the long-time smoker for cancer, but finding a pea-size lesion in the lung is no easy task and often requires a major operation.

A new, less invasive technique has been developed by doctors at the University of Virginia.

"It's much less surgery than a big incision, spreading the rib. And we've been 85, well 95% successful, once we have the tracer in there, of locating lesions."

It's like a medical Geiger Counter.

First, doctors locate the lesion with a CAT Scan and mark the area with a radioactive tracer. Next, they insert a gamma probe into the lung through a small incision.

"Like a Geiger Counter, we can pick up the sound of the radioactivity that's been placed near on of these lesions."

Once doctors find the right spot, the lesion is removed and biopsied.

If it's benign, the patient goes home the next day. If it's cancer, like it was for Kenneth, there's more surgery.

Studies suggest the technique spots lung cancer earlier, "33% of the patients that we operate on had lung cancer and all but one were early stage 1a lesions with nonodes positive. Much smaller than the classic finding."

And, so far, he's cancer-free. Doctors say the technique may possibly work as a lung cancer screening tool for high-risk patients.

They include smokers and people who have a significant exposure to second-hand smoke.

Posted by Bryce Mursch