Pathology tests give cancer cells a miss

Sydney: Tiny cancer cells are being missed in routine pathology tests, causing the death of nearly half the patients after five years of being given the "all-clear", a study says.

In a study of 250 oesophageal cancer patients over 10 years, Sarah Thompson, surgeon and doctoral candidate at the University of Adelaide, found that of the 119 people given a clean bill of health, only 62 were still alive five years later.

"If you tell people they are totally clear of cancer and then a year later they come back with secondary cancer, that is a devastating result," Thomson says, reports the journal The Annals of Surgery.

There are two types of oesophageal cancer: squamous cell carcinoma, occurring in the top part of the oesophagus; and adenocarcinoma, which is closer to the stomach. The latter has increased by 400 percent in Australia since the 1970s, according to an Adelaide statement.

The oesophagus is a muscular tube in the chest that connects the mouth and throat to the stomach.

Thompson`s study showed that oesophageal tumour cells are being missed in the lymph nodes in conventional pathological tests.

"I think there is also merit in changing the existing pathology guidelines for oesophageal cancer patients to ensure a more accurate diagnosis," adds Thomson.


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