Diagnosis of any form of mesothelioma is difficult. Since one need not be exposed to large amounts of asbestos to develop the disease decades later, many don't know they were ever at risk. Even if one is aware of their own history of asbestos exposure and the dangers involved, the long latency period of mesothelioma, coupled with the fact that most symptoms of the disease are similar to those of other diseases, make a positive diagnosis difficult.
Despite the difficulties of diagnosis and the rarity of mesothelioma, accurately detecting the disease is possible through a variety of tests.
If you have experienced any of the symptoms of peritoneal or
pleural mesothelioma, it is important to see a doctor as soon as possible to begin preliminary testing and examinations.
Typically your doctor will first determine abnormalities by performing a physical examination, examining medical history, and learning if you have a history of asbestos exposure. It's important to note that a doctor may not initially suspect mesothelioma, as it is a very rare disease. If you have a history of potential asbestos exposure, it is helpful to inform your physician.
The first step in mesothelioma diagnosis will involve your doctor listening to your breathing to determine if there are any abnormalities. He or she will also look for any swelling or lumps on the chest or stomach area. Further testing will be performed if it is determined that you are experiencing breathing difficulties, shortness of breath, or chest pain.
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Testing for Mesothelioma Diagnosis
Doctors can easily misdiagnose mesothelioma due to the similarity of mesothelioma symptoms to those of other ailments. Initially, chest problems and a severe cough from pleural mesothelioma may be diagnosed as pneumonia or lung cancer.
Various tests are used to determine whether you have pneumonia, lung cancer, asbestosis, mesothelioma, or something else. Doctors first perform imaging tests like X-rays to detect mesothelioma. Then they use tissue samples to confirm its presence. The following tests are used to detect mesothelioma:
Chest X-ray: This method reveals abnormal fluid and thickening of protective tissue outside the lungs.
Computed Tomograph: The CT scan is an X-ray that produces a more detailed and accurate image of the affected area. Traditional X-ray machines snap one photo at one angle. The CT camera rotates around patients, capturing all angles. Then a computer combines all photos and renders them into a single 3D image. This ensures a thorough scan, allowing doctors to make an initial mesothelioma diagnosis and determine how far it has spread.
Positron Emission Tomography: In the PET scan, a radioactive sugar solution is injected into the bloodstream. Cancer cells consume sugar faster than normal cells. As a result, the cancer tissue will glow brighter than healthy tissue in PET scan results. This test can determine if thickening tissue is cancer or scar tissue. It also determines if cancer is spreading.
Magnetic resonance imaging: The MRI scan shoots radio waves at the body. The body absorbs and then releases the energy. A computer captures these released waves. Then it translates them into a 3D-like image, similar to the CT scan.
Fluid sample: Fluid is tapped from either the belly or the chest with a syringe. A pathologist then tests the fluid for cancer.
Tissue sample procedures: Doctors make a tiny incision in the chest or stomach. Then they insert a telescope-type device with a video camera. This enables doctors to see the tumor and remove a tissue sample. This tissue is then tested for cancer.
Further testing may be performed to see if mesothelioma has spread to other parts of the body such as the heart and lymphatic system.