I'm Having a What?! Endobronchial Ultrasound Explained

EBUS.  Have you ever heard of that?  I sure had not until my journey with lung cancer began. An endobronchial ultrasound (EBUS) is a "technique that uses ultrasound along with bronchoscope to visualize airway wall and structures adjacent to it."1

When I first heard the words lung cancer, of course, along with it came many tests for staging.  One of the biopsies was for my lymph nodes in my chest.  At that time, it was an outpatient surgery, a 2-inch scar at the top of my chest, and the surgeon went in and took various samples.  I, then, had to wait days for the report.

A Less Invasive Option

Fast forward, 18 months later, my CT scan showed growth.  My oncologist recommended an EBUS as a "less invasive" way to get an accurate picture of my lymph nodes.

In plain English, it is similar to a bronchoscopy.  You are put to sleep.  The physician inserts the tube with a camera down your windpipe and takes a look.  BUT, the best part of an EBUS is that it is combined with ultrasound and a very small needle so that the physician can go through your windpipe and gather samples without an incision.

EBUS-guided transbronchial needle aspiration (TBNA) has "higher diagnostic yield than conventional TBNA in all lymph node stations except subcarinal lymph nodes in determining the lymph node involvement in NSCLC. Its ability to precisely visualize the airway wall invasion helps to categorize the tumor (T) component of staging and surgical resection planning. It can be combined with endoscopic ultrasound-guided fine-needle aspiration to near complete sampling of mediastinum using a single endobronchial ultrasound bronchoscope. It can also be used to restage the lung cancer in mediastinum."1

Confirmation That My Cancer Had Spread

My personal experience was great.  Although my EBUS confirmed my fears that my lung cancer had spread to more lymph nodes, it was a much easier test than going through mediastinum surgery.  I had my EBUS in 2015 and have yet to find anyone else who had this type of biopsy.

Have you heard of this?  Does your healthcare facility offer it?  As always, do your due diligence and research options and discuss with your care team.

Editor’s Note: We are extremely saddened to say that on January 28, 2020, Jennifer Toth passed away. Jennifer was a passionate advocate for the Lung Cancer community. She will be deeply missed.

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