Doctors use a variety of tests when diagnosing mesothelioma. They will examine your symptoms, then perform imaging scans (such as X-rays) or blood tests. A mesothelioma diagnosis is officially made through a biopsy. An accurate diagnosis of mesothelioma is critical to receive the best treatment.
How is Mesothelioma Diagnosed?
A mesothelioma cancer diagnosis usually starts with monitoring your symptoms, according to the American Cancer Society (ACS). Most patients see their doctors to get a physical exam a few months after the first symptoms of mesothelioma (chest pain, shortness of breath, and/or weight loss) begin.
View Summary: Registered Nurse Amy Fair discusses the team of doctors that are involved when getting a mesothelioma diagnosis. View Transcript.
Who should be on my medical team for treatment?
The health care professionals that are involved in the diagnosis of mesothelioma many times start with your primary doctor because of the symptoms of a cough or shortness of breath.
Many times they are referred then on to a pulmonologist if the symptoms don’t resolve. After the pulmonologist does a CT scan or a chest X-ray and notes a mass in the pleura or the abdomen, they will refer them on to a thoracic surgeon to have that biopsy to confirm the disease.
The surgeon, after getting the diagnosis, will then refer them on to either a radiation oncologist or oncologist for treatment.
At first, some mesothelioma symptoms may be mistaken for more common illnesses like the flu or pneumonia. If diseases like these have been ruled out, you may need to see a pulmonologist (respiratory system doctor) or oncologist (cancer doctor).
These specialized doctors will likely order imaging tests to look for cancerous tumors in your body. Commonly used tests include CT scans, X-rays, and PET scans. They may also take samples of your blood and analyze it to look for signs of cancer.
If mesothelioma is still suspected at this stage, a biopsy will be ordered. Through a biopsy, doctors extract a sample of tissue or fluid. A lab analyzes the sample under a microscope to see if cancer cells are present. Doctors can then formally diagnose a patient based on the results of this test.
It’s crucial to see a doctor right away if mesothelioma is suspected. The sooner you are diagnosed, the sooner you can access treatments to help you live longer or manage your symptoms.
Learn how mesothelioma is diagnosed and treated with our free veterans packet.
Mesothelioma Diagnosis & Asbestos Exposure
Asbestos is the biggest risk factor and only known cause of mesothelioma. As a result, your doctor may ask if you were ever exposed to asbestos if they think you might have mesothelioma.
“A suspicion of mesothelioma should always arise when a patient with a case history of reasonable asbestos exposure is examined for pleural effusion or pleural masses of unknown [origin].”
– European Respiratory Journal
U.S. veterans have an increased risk of mesothelioma due to asbestos exposure in the military. Veterans who worked in shipbuilding, naval shipyards, or construction have the highest rates of asbestos exposure.
Non-veterans can also be exposed through blue-collar work or secondhand exposure if someone they loved worked around asbestos.
Our team can help determine if you have ever been exposed to asbestos. Contact us right now for more information.