Mesothelioma can be a very difficult disease to diagnose. Many of the symptoms present as being similar to viral or bacterial diseases like pneumonia or bronchitis, and the diagnosis is further complicated by the fact that many mesothelioma patients also develop these lung conditions as a result of their illness and its weakening of their immune system. It is critically important that physicians understand whether a patient has had a significant asbestos exposure history; without that knowledge, a clinician is likely to assume that mesothelioma symptoms are caused by a much more common condition.
The diagnostic process usually begins with a complete physical examination, lung function tests, and an X-ray of the chest or abdomen. CT scans and MRIs are also often done at this stage so that the physician can get an idea of the condition of the lungs or abdomen and detect effusions (pools of liquid within the pleural sac or the abdominal cavity) which are often present in the case of mesothelioma.
The diagnosis of mesothelioma will entail scans and biopsies arranged by your doctor. A CT or MRI scan is often used to detect the possible presence of the disease, and if there is a positive indication of the presence of mesothelioma, the scans are followed up by a biopsy. Doctors often run an examination on the fluid surrounding the lungs, but all too often this is inadequate to make a firm diagnosis. In these circumstances the doctor may perform a small operation in order to remove a tissue sample and run a biopsy on that. This is known as open pleural biopsy. If you are suspected of suffering from peritoneal mesothelioma the biopsy will be performed on tissue taken from the abdominal area, known as a peritoneal biopsy.
Examination of the tissues removed by a pathologist is usually sufficient to permit the diagnosis of malignant mesothelioma, and to distinguish mesothelioma from other similar conditions such as adenocarcinoma. Patients typically do not seek medical care for mesothelioma until the symptoms have been ongoing for four to six months; this lateness of diagnosis is one of the reasons that mesothelioma has such a high mortality rate.
ou have worked with or had contact with asbestos at any time in your life, it is important that you let your doctor know. The difficulty in diagnosing mesothelioma means that you doctor may put your symptoms down to any number of diseases before testing for mesothelioma. However, if you have already made it known that you have worked with asbestos, it will give the doctor a head start in making a diagnosis. This means that test can be carried out far earlier and the necessary treatment can be prescribed.