Mesothelioma Diagnosis Overview
If you are experiencing mesothelioma symptoms and have a known history of asbestos exposure, then you may be diagnosed with a form of mesothelioma. Here is what every patient needs to know about diagnosing mesothelioma:
- Only mesothelioma specialists can diagnose this rare type of cancer
- Mesothelioma is diagnosed by location, stage and cell type
- Doctors use tests like imaging scans and bloodwork to help them diagnose mesothelioma
- A biopsy (sample of cancerous tissue) can confirm a mesothelioma diagnosis
- Patients are within their rights to seek a second opinion if they question their initial diagnosis
How Mesothelioma is Diagnosed
Mesothelioma can only be accurately diagnosed by specialists who have years of experiencing researching and treating this rare disease. Unfortunately, because mesothelioma is so rare, it often gets misdiagnosed by the patient’s general practitioner when symptoms are initially reported. Even if cancer is suspected, general oncologists (cancer doctors) don’t always have the experience that’s necessary to identify such a complex disease.
With a proper diagnosis, doctors can determine the mesothelioma cell type and disease stage. It’s critical for doctors to know a patient’s unique diagnostic factors so that they can develop the most effective treatment plan possible.
Here are the steps that doctors take to diagnose mesothelioma:
1. Physical Examination
Typically, when patients begin to notice persistent symptoms. They will report their condition to their family doctor. If you suspect you have any of the signs or symptoms of mesothelioma, then it’s critical to inform your doctor of your history of asbestos exposure—the only known cause of mesotheliomas.
During a physical exam:
- Doctors ask patients about their symptoms and how long they’ve lasted
- Doctors will listen a patient’s chest to detect congestion or fluid buildup
- Patients should report their history of asbestos exposure
2. Imaging Scans and Tests
Based on the physical examination, doctors may suspect pleural effusions (fluid buildup in the chest), or malignancy (cancer). To investigate further, doctors will order one or multiple imaging tests. Image scanning machines help doctors look inside you to find abnormalities.
3. Blood Tests and Biomarkers
Biomarker and blood tests identify levels of certain substances that may be higher in mesothelioma patients. Blood and biomarker tests are helpful for doctors. Because they give more details about mesothelioma. These tests are often used to help support the results from imaging tests.
The only way to conclusively diagnose mesothelioma is by testing the abnormal tumor mass for cancer cells. The previous steps are conducted to help guide doctors in the right direction. They can make the final diagnosis.