Cancer Mesothelioma Diagnosis

Because mesothelioma’s symptoms are not unique to it and the disease’s relative rarity, cases of mesothelioma misdiagnosed are not uncommon. A review of the patient’s medical history is an important part in assessing the risk of mesothelioma.

As a first step in diagnosing the disease, the doctor may order an x-ray of the chest or abdomen or a CT (or CAT) scan or MRI may be performed. Although mesothelioma typically cannot be seen on an x-ray, the tumor often causes a pleural effusion, or fluid collection between the lung and chest wall. This abnormal finding is associated with shortness of breath and warrants clinical followup. Lung function tests may also be completed.

ThoracoscopeThe doctor may look inside the chest cavity with a special instrument called a thoracoscope. A cut will be made through the chest wall and the thoracoscope will be put into the chest between two ribs. This test, called thoracoscopy, is usually done in the hospital. Before the test, the patient will be given a local anesthetic (a drug that causes a loss of feeling for a short period of time). Some pressure may be felt, but usually there is no pain.

The doctor may also look inside the abdomen (peritoneoscopy) with a special tool called a peritoneoscope. The peritoneoscope is put into an opening made in the abdomen. This test is also usually done in the hospital. Before the test is done, a local anesthetic will be given.

If tissue that is not normal is found, the doctor will need to cut out a small piece and have it reviewed under a microscope to see if there are any cancer cells. This is called a biopsy. Biopsies are usually done during the thoracoscopy or peritoneoscopy.

Diagnosing mesothelioma is very difficult, and cases of mesothelioma misdiagnosed are unforunately not uncommon. It is important to share your case history of work experience (especially in shipyards and at construction sites) and asbestos exposure potential with your physicians if you feel mesothelioma is a risk. Asbestos fibres can also be carried into the home on clothing, inadvertantly exposing the deadly fibres, and the risk of mesothelioma, to family members.

A mesothelioma diagnosis is serious, but treatments are available. The chance of recovery (prognosis) depends on the size of the cancer, where the cancer is, how far the cancer has spread, how the cancer cells look under the microscope, how the cancer responds to treatment, and the patient’s age. As with most types of cancer, early diagnosis is an excellent first step in fighting the disease.



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