Getting the right diagnosis means getting the best treatment, and increasing the chances for the best outcomes.
Mesothelioma can be a difficult malignancy to diagnose because the symptoms and pathology of the disease closely resemble other respiratory conditions. For this reason, misdiagnosis is common.
If you have symptoms of mesothelioma, your doctor will examine you and ask you questions about your health, lifestyle, including smoking and drinking habits, and exposure to asbestos. Tests that examine the inside of the chest and abdomen are used to detect and diagnose malignant mesothelioma. These may include:
After mesothelioma has been diagnosed, tests are done to find out if cancer cells have spread to other parts of the body. The following tests and procedures may be used in this process:
- Chest x-ray: An x-ray of the organs and bones inside the chest.
- CT scan (CAT scan): A procedure that makes a series of detailed pictures of the chest and abdomen, taken from different angles.
- MRI (magnetic resonance imaging): A procedure that uses a magnet, radio waves, and a computer to make a series of detailed pictures of the chest or abdomen. This procedure is also called nuclear magnetic resonance imaging (NMRI).
- Endoscopic ultrasound (EUS): A procedure in which an endoscope, a thin, tube-like instrument with a light and a lens for viewing, is inserted into the body.
In a process called staging, a number between 1 and 4 is assigned to the tumor: Stage 1 means the disease is localized and affects only a limited area of the body; Stage 4 means the disease is very advanced and has spread to many parts of the body. This information is used to develop the best treatment plan for you. The lower the staging number, the more treatment options available. Because mesothelioma is so rare, a formal staging system exists only for pleural mesothelioma. Learn more about Mesothelioma stages.
Image courtesy of the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance.