Diagnosing Mesothelioma

When someone is experiencing symptoms related to mesothelioma they will need to go through a number of tests and procedure to determine if they are suffering from this type of cancer. It is always best to work with a specialist that has a great deal of expertise.


How is Mesothelioma Diagnosed?

Individuals that are suffering from symptoms like continual coughing, shortness of breath, or even chest pains will want to be sure that they are consulting a doctor. After meeting with a physician, the process of determining the causes can start and treatment plan can begin.

Diagnostic Procedures

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Imaging Tests

These types of tests are used in order to find a tumor in your body. Tests used the most often will include X-rays, CT scans, PET scans and even MRIs.

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Blood-Marker Tests

You will find that there are a lot of different blood tests that can be done in order to see if you are suffering from cancer. It will then be possible for the doctor to determine which type of cancer is present and the type of treatment that is going to be the best.

Biopsy

This is when a piece of tissue, or even fluid, will be removed from a tumor in order to see if it is cancerous. Once the sample is taken it will be looked at underneath a microscope. This is a great way to identify and diagnose mesothelioma.

The First Steps

If you are presenting symptoms and have reason to suspect you were exposed to asbestos at some point in your life, you should see a physician immediately. Because mesothelioma can so often be misidentified for other diseases due to its nonspecific symptoms and rarity, it’s important to be upfront with your physician about your concerns.

Your doctor will ask several in-depth questions about your medical history and the potential of asbestos exposure before performing a thorough physical examination. If they suspect that you may have a form of mesothelioma, then they will order a variety of diagnostic procedures to verify the diagnosis and gain more information before referring you to a specialist.

Symptoms to Watch For

If you were or believe you may have been exposed to asbestos, then it is imperative that you stay on top of your health and physical condition. The main symptoms that can indicate various types of mesothelioma are broken down as follows:

Pleural Mesothelioma

  • Pain in the chest
  • Buildup of fluid
  • Trouble breathing
  • Continual coughing

Peritoneal Mesothelioma

  • Pain in the stomach
  • Buildup of fluid
  • Losing weight
  • Trouble eating or feeling hungry

Pericardial Mesothelioma

  • Pain in the chest
  • Buildup of fluid
  • Murmurs in your heart

Testicular Mesothelioma

  • Fluid buildup in scrotum
  • Testicular pain
  • Growth of a mass.

The Importance of Early Diagnoses

Though it has a latent development, mesothelioma is a very aggressive malignant cancer. Once it surfaces, it will spread quickly. While there is not yet a cure, patients who are diagnosed during the early stages of mesothelioma can undergo many more treatments and procedures to extend their life expectancy and improve their quality of life.

Early diagnosis is difficult due to both mesothelioma’s long latency period and its nonspecific symptoms. However, research continues to find new treatments and determine ways to identify mesothelioma within a patient.

Diagnostic Imaging Tests

These types of tests are used first to identify mesothelioma. They are used to help determine anything that may be abnormal. They can also be used to help determine how far along the cancer is, or what stage it is in. All of the tests will have their very own purpose when it comes to cancer.

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X-Ray – This is a 2D test and will be used to help find the tumor as well as any buildup of fluid. It is used for each of the different types of mesothelioma.

Computed Tomography Scan (CT Scan) – These are 3D and they will show things in much greater detail. It is often used when it comes to diagnosing pleural mesothelioma.

Magnetic Resonance Imaging Scan (MRI) – MRIs give you a very detailed look at the tumor itself. You will also be able to determine the amount of damage to any of the soft tissue that surrounds the tumor. Many times this can help decide if it is possible for surgery to be completed.

Positron Emission Tomography Scan (PET) – PET scans can show cancer cells after the patient has been given a small amount of a radiopharmaceutical drug. When this test is used the doctor can also identify what stage the cancer is in.

Blood Tests and Biomarkers

Pathologists use blood tests and biomarkers to determine several things: the presence of cancer, the cell types making up tumors, the type of treatment that may work best, and an accurate prognosis.

While biopsies are often lauded as the only sure confirmation of mesothelioma, blood tests provide more accurate and detailed information on how the cancer is affecting your system.

Pathologists will measure certain biomarkers such as proteins and antibodies, deciphering information that your mesothelioma oncologist will then use to determine a treatment plan.

Notable blood tests available include the following:

• Cancer Antigen 125 (CA125): While CA125 is present in healthy individuals, it is far more prevalent in patient’s with mesothelioma. While antigens are typically assisting the immune system, CA125’s purpose is currently a mystery to researchers.

• Fibulin-3: this protein promises to change the timeline for diagnosis in mesothelioma patients. It is currently under research with the hopes that testing for this protein can lead to earlier diagnoses.

• Mesomark: This test checks for the concentration of Soluble Mesothelin Related Peptides (SMRPs) in a patient’s blood. Patients with mesothelioma present a higher concentration than healthy individuals.

1. Certain antibodies can identify whether a patient has mesothelioma or another type of cancer:

• Antibodies including mesothelin, thrombomodulin, calretinin, and WT1 identify epithelioid mesothelioma

• Antibodies like Napsin A, CEA, and surfactant apoprotein identify adenocarcinoma

Pathologists and Mesothelioma

Pathologists play a major role in treating and studying mesothelioma. These specialists can also study other fluid and tissue samples during the course of your treatment to assist you and your doctor.

Mesothelioma Pathology focuses on studying the cause and effect of the various forms of mesothelioma, including how the cancer forms and spreads. This pathology is broken down into two disciplines: histology and cytology.

  • Histology: this focuses on tissue samples. Pathologists examine the anatomy of cells to determine mesothelioma type and malignancy as well as the type of cells involved.
  • Cytology: this uses both tissue and fluid samples, examining individual cells and groups of cells and examining their behavior, such as how the cells form, interact, and metastasize.

Mesothelioma Biopsies

This is when tissue and even fluid is extracted and tested. It is a great way to determine if cancer cells are present in the body.

It is very important to carry out a histological makeup so that the appropriate type of treatment can be identified. Different makeups are going to have different reactions to treatment. Because of this, biopsies are very important.

Biopsy through Surgery

This is when tissue is removed from the patient. It will be sent to a professional pathologist to be studied. These tests can be completed through surgery or even through surgery that is assisted with a camera.

Different Procedures for Biopsies Include:

Thoracotomy – This is a traditional biopsy of the cavity in the chest of the patient. It is best for helping to discover a pleural mesothelioma diagnosis. This kind of biopsy can give surgeons an actual look at what’s going on into the extent of the disease.

Thoracoscopy – A less invasive biopsy of the chest for pleural mesothelioma. This type of biopsy uses a camera to assist in its findings.

Laparotomy – The cavity of the abdomen will be the point of interest when it comes to this type of biopsy. It will be used when it comes to a peritoneal mesothelioma diagnosis.

Mediastinoscopy – This is a chest biopsy and it is an alternative method that can be used. There are times when this can be used rather than using thoracoscopy but it will depend on where the tumor is located.

Laparoscopy – A laparoscopy is also less invasive for a patient. It is used to help diagnose peritoneal mesothelioma. Again, a camera is used.

Non-Surgical Biopsies

These biopsies will include the removal of fluid. It is removed from the body with a needle and then a professional called a cytologist will look at the fluid to see if there are mesothelioma cells present. Although this is less invasive, it doesn’t allow doctors to get a first-hand look at the actual tumors in the patient.

Using Histopathology and Cytology

Once the biopsy has been completed it will be very important to identify what type of cancer you are dealing with. This can be done by using histopathology or cytology reports. Histopathology is used when tissue was removed through the biopsy. Cytology reports will be used if fluid was removed.


Misdiagnosing Mesothelioma

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There are a number of doctors that have never actually seen this type of cancer. That’s what can lead to a mesothelioma misdiagnosis. Symptoms are very similar to those that you may experience if you have a cold or the flu. In order to avoid being misdiagnosed, it is always important to work with a specialist as well as getting a second opinion.

Common misdiagnoses include the following:

  • Instead of Pleural Mesothelioma: adenocarcinoma, asthma, bronchial infections, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), emphysema, Pneumonia, and other lung cancers
  • Instead of Peritoneal Mesothelioma: Benign cystic mesothelioma, Crohn’s Disease, hernia, Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), ovarian cancer, and other abdominal cancers
  • Instead of Pericardial Mesothelioma: coronary artery disease, heart failure, synovial sarcoma, tuberculosis pericarditis, and other heart-related cancers
  • Instead of Testicular Mesothelioma: adenocarcinoma, epididymitis, inguinal hernia, and other testicular cancers

Treatment for Mesothelioma After a Diagnosis

After a diagnosis has been made, a mesothelioma treatment plan can be determined. In many cases, if the cancer is in the early stages then surgery may be an option. Chemotherapy and radiation can be used with patients at any stage.

A crucial step in facing down mesothelioma is choosing the right doctor. Because this cancer is so rare, you want to find a dedicated specialist who is familiar with your specific type of mesothelioma and who is up to date with the latest research. These dedicated specialists are familiar with the intricacies of mesothelioma and can help you prepare a thorough treatment plan best suited to your unique situation.

Multiple types of treatments used in conjunction with each other have also been shown to help increase survival rates. If you are willing to have more than one type of treatment, then you will be undergoing what is known as a multimodal treatment plan. This has been found to be very effective and there are even times when the patient may actually beat the odds.

If you are concerned about finances during travel and treatment, then you should also consider consulting a mesothelioma attorney through our free consultation form. The number one cause of mesothelioma is asbestos exposure, and you may be entitled to compensation— whether from an asbestos trust fund or from a lawsuit against one or more of the responsible parties.

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