November is Lung Cancer Awareness Month, a time aimed at raising awareness for the world’s leading cause of cancerous deaths. According to the International Agency for Research on Cancer, the estimated annual mortality due to lung cancer is projected to increase by 50% from around two million deaths currently to more than three million deaths by 2040. This increase highlights the importance of detecting this cancerous type at the early stages in order to arrange suitable treatment.
Some of the main risk factors for lung cancer include tobacco smoking and exposure to a variety of air pollution, such as engine exhausts, chemical fumes and asbestos. Due to the gradual reduction of tobacco smoking worldwide, the projected annual mortality for lung cancer is expected to grow at a slower pace than other types of cancer.
Early detection of lung cancer is critical for improving recovery rates. Patients suspected of having lung cancer often undergo several tests, which can include imaging tests like X-rays and computerised tomography (CT) scans. In most cases, however, the only definitive way to diagnose and stage lung cancer is through a biopsy, where small tissue samples are removed for analysis.
Two common approaches to performing lung biopsies are bronchoscopy and needle biopsy. The former is an example of an endoscope, where a thin, flexible tube is fed through the throat and down the lungs to capture images and tissue samples internally. The latter uses a thin, rigid needle that is inserted through the chest wall and samples the tissues suspected of containing cancerous cells under the visual guidance of X-ray or CT imaging. Needle biopsies are often the method of choice when lung nodules and other suspected cancerous cells are unreachable by bronchoscopy.
Both these methods of lung biopsies have been instrumental in better diagnosing more lung cancer cases, leading to their increased use worldwide over time. According to GlobalData, the flexible bronchoscopes market has grown by 7% since 2015 and is projected to continue to grow at a similar rate until the end of this decade. While other indications like acute and chronic respiratory diseases also contribute to the growth of the flexible bronchoscopes market, lung cancer is still an important indication for bronchoscopies, along with its subsequent tissue biopsies.
Needle biopsies that use biopsy guns have also historically seen steady market growth as the number of new cases of lung cancer has risen, and these devices hold some advantages over their bronchoscopy counterparts. These include, but are not limited to, the speed of obtaining a tissue sample, convenience and relative ease of use, fewer opportunities for cross-contamination due to the reuse of bronchoscopes even after undergoing sterilisation, and high diagnostic accuracies.