A Belgian study finds that a new type of diagnostic imaging, which can better differentiate between benign and cancerous lung lesions than currently used PET-CT scans, could be used to prevent unnecessary surgery by enabling more accurate diagnosis of the disease. This new diagnostic imaging method uses a type of MRI scan, known as diffusion-weighted MRI.

Diffusion-weighted MRI measures water movement in the tissue of the lungs and can detect the structural changes that lung cancer causes, even in the early stages of the disease. This techniques is also noninvasive and does not require any radiation exposure.

The researcher analyzed 50 patients who had been diagnosed with lung cancer or suspected lung cancer using a PET-CT scan and who were due to undergo surgery. The day before surgery, the same group underwent a diffusion-weighted MRI scan.

The results showed that with PET-CT scans, 33 patients were diagnosed correctly, 7 incorrectly, and 10 were undetermined. With diffusion-weighted MRI scans, 45 patients were diagnosed correctly and 5 incorrectly. The 10 undetermined cases with PET-CT were correctly diagnosed using diffusion-weighted MRI scan.

“PET/CT scans can wrongly diagnose cancer, as they can misinterpret inflammation in the lungs as a malignant lesion. Especially in these inflammatory lesions, diffusion-weighted MRI is more accurate, which could help avoid unnecessary surgical procedures for those people without malignant disease. In addition, it could help to classify patients with lung cancer to enable doctors to provide the most effective therapeutic procedures,” says Johan Coolen, MD, from the University Hospitals Leuven in Belgium.

The findings of this study were recently presented at the European Respiratory Society’s Annual Congress in Amsterdam, the Netherlands.

Source: European Lung Foundation