A recent study has found that a procedure to take tissue samples from lung cancer patients can be used safely in the elderly — allowing doctors to make a more accurate diagnosis and to choose appropriate treatment.

Half of all lung cancer patients are over 70 years old when first diagnosed, but studies have shown that these older patients are less likely to receive an accurate diagnosis.

A correct assessment of the stage of a patient’s disease — how much their tumor has grown and spread — is key to ensuring they receive the right treatment.

Non-invasive methods of checking whether a patient’s cancer has spread to their lymph nodes have limited sensitivity and until recently the only way to obtain a tissue sample was under general anesthetic — limiting its use in elderly patients who often present with other conditions that may restrict the use of general anaesthesia.