Malignant Mesothelioma Diagnosis

Diagnosing mesothelioma is complicated by a variety of different factors. First, there are few outward symptoms until the condition is gravely advanced. Second, the time between exposure to asbestos and manifestation of mesothelioma takes decades. Mesothelioma often continues to worsen even after exposure to asbestos has ended. Third, many of the symptoms of mesothelioma are common to a number of other less severe conditions, ranging from the common cold to seasonal allergies. Lack of symptoms, delay in condition, and misdiagnosis conspire to make mesothelioma one of the deadliest cancers.

When a doctor suspects a patient suffers from mesothelioma, X-Rays, magnetic resonance imagery (MRI), and computed axial tomography (CAT) scans are performed to view potentially hazardous conditions in various internal organs.

A doctor can perform any of several tests in order to reach a proper diagnosis of mesothelioma.  Each test has a different level of accuracy.  A test to diagnose the presence of mesothelioma should be conducted when the patient is experiencing symptoms such as shortness of breath, chest pain, fatigue, pain in the abdomen or persistent coughing.  Mesothelioma is caused by exposure to asbestos.  If the patient knows that he or she was exposed to asbestos, they should be tested. 

What these different tests to diagnose mesothelioma reveal:

  • X-rays:  These pictures allow doctors to see through layers of skin and surface tissue to determine if there is any incidence of mesothelioma in the lungs, gastrointestinal tract, or other parts of the body.  An older method of detection, X-rays have been known to miss small growths of mesothelioma, and these delays can cost innocent people their lives.
  • Magnetic resonance imagery (MRI):  MRIs are sophisticated detection equipment that use high magnetic fields to align the water molecules in the body, which gives doctors a clear picture of internal body structures and organs.  These scans are particularly useful at detecting soft tissue growths such as mesothelioma.
  • Computed axial tomography (CAT) scans: CAT scans are essentially three dimensional X-rays that project an incredibly detailed internal picture of bones and other skeletal structures.  CAT scans have been extremely useful in determining if mesothelioma has mestastized into the bones.

Other Tests for Mesothelioma.

Doctors also consider more elaborate tests if these scans prove inconclusive and to also rule out the possibility of other diseases. Depending on the location of the cancer, doctors will either measure lung elasticity and capacity to examine the extent of lung damage or study digestive tract tissue to determine if mesothelioma has spread. Fortunately, the most evasive diagnostic procedure requires only a local anesthetic and is called a thoracoscopy or a peritoneoscopy, where a small camera is inserted through a small incision in the chest or abdomen to view the amount of damage and take a small tissue sample for a biopsy.

What can be done if these tests discover mesothelioma?

If the doctor does find the presence of asbestos, the next step would be to determine if malignant mesothelioma is present.  At this point, the patient should visit a specialist. In fact, proper diagnosis of mesothelioma will depend on the persistence of symptoms and the results of any or all of these tests. 

To determine whether cancer cells are present and if so, how many and where, the doctor will do a biopsy of the infected area.  This is a less intrusive method than surgery, which is another way of detecting mesothelioma.  The current health condition of the patient will dictate which procedure would be most advisable.  A biopsy allows the doctor to gather cells that are suspected of being infected.  This sample will then be passed to another specialist such as a pathologist, who will then examine the specimen to determine if the cells are malignant or benign. 

Another method to reach a proper diagnosis of mesothelioma is surgery.  This procedure entails the doctor cutting a small piece of tissue to be tested.  This process could take several days.

If the patient is diagnosed with mesothelioma, the doctor will either refer the patient to an oncologist or begin a treatment plan if this doctor practices oncology.  Before deciding on the proper treatment plan, the doctor will need to do further tests to determine how far the mesothelioma has progressed and/or spread.

Facing a diagnosis of mesothelioma is never easy. Even with treatment and counseling, the stress of such a condition can overwhelm even the strongest individual. The malignancy period of mesothelioma is so prolonged that by the time the patients exhibit any symptoms, treatment is usually ineffective. Average post-diagnosis survival is four to eighteen months, but sadly, fewer than half of all patients survive that long. If a victim miraculously survives past this perilous phase, the average patient lives two years, but only 20% of those endure past five years. Terminal outcomes are a profoundly difficult situation for the victim and their families, so emotional support is imperative for those affected by a mesothelioma diagnosis.

The legacy of the negligent asbestos industry is reflected in the suffering of hundreds of thousands of people exposed to this deadly substance. If you or someone you love developed mesothelioma after working with asbestos, or had extensive contact with asbestos-containing products, we want to hear from you.  You may be entitled to compensation for your pain and suffering, but if you hesitate the statute of limitations in your state could expire, leaving you with expensive medical bills and unimaginable heartbreak.  Contact us today.

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Page Description: Malignant Mesothelioma Diagnosis and Tests & Discovery of Mesothelioma updated 6/05/2013