New methods are giving doctors a better handle on diagnosing and treating asbestos-related cancers, but no cures are on the horizon.
“I think it would be overly optimistic to say it’s going to be cured. I mean we can always dream,” said oncologist Dr. Christopher Lee, an expert on mesothelioma.
Paul Demers, a senior scientist in prevention at the Occupational Cancer Research Centre in Toronto, said one of the difficulties in diagnosing mesothelioma is the long latency period — the period between exposure and the development of symptoms — which can sometimes be up to 40 years.
When asbestos fibres are inhaled or ingested, they become trapped in the pleural lining of the lungs. Over time, thousands of tiny fibres cause scarring in the tissue.
New equipment like the CyTOF instrument allows doctors to detect asbestos earlier and with more precision, which could facilitate more effective treatments for asbestos victims.
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