Case study reveals shortcomings of PET/CT in diagnosing mesothelioma in the elderly

Published on February 28, 2023

When a patient is suspected of having malignant pleural mesothelioma, doctors perform a variety of diagnostic tests to either confirm or rule out the rare, asbestos-related disease. However, a recent case documented by researchers at Case Western Reserve indicates that traditional diagnostic tools are sometimes inadequate, underscoring the need for extensive testing.

Case Western Reserve documents mesothelioma diagnosis

In an important warning to physicians treating patients exposed to asbestos, researchers at Case Western University recently published a case report of a 77-year-old patient suspected of having malignant mesothelioma based on his occupational history and findings of pleural fluid and air around his lungs.

His doctors performed a pleural fluid test, but microscopic examination revealed no signs of mesothelioma. Then they ordered PET/CT scans with a radioactive tracer that measures the metabolic rate of cells. This test was also negative for the rare form of cancer.

Doctor’s persistence reveals mesothelioma

Dissatisfied with the results combined with the man’s symptoms, his doctors performed a biopsy, which confirmed that his symptoms were due to pleural mesothelioma. The team concluded that the positive scan results may have been caused by the tumor’s small size as well as the effect of its age on its metabolic rate. This theory was previously the subject of a study on the use of PET/CT in the elderly.

Author Haley Corbin of Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine warned in the journal Cureus, “Elderly patients with early-stage malignant pleural mesothelioma are more likely to have false-negative FDG-PET/CT results. Pleural biopsy is essential when there is clinical suspicion of mesothelioma, even with negative initial FDG-PET imaging.”

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If you or someone you love is at risk for malignant mesothelioma, regular checkups and comprehensive testing are essential. For information on the resources available to you, contact the Patient Advocates at today at 1-800-692-8608.

FREE Mesothelioma Pack Written by Terri Oppenheimer Terri Heimann Oppenheimer is the main author of our news blog. She graduated from the College of William and Mary with a degree in English. Terri believes knowledge is power, and she is committed to sharing news about the effects of mesothelioma, the latest research and medical breakthroughs, and the stories of victims.

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