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Mesothelioma Diagnosis

Mesothelioma takes a long time to incubate within a human body before symptoms of mesothelioma may appear and cause suffering to the carrier. It can take fifteen to twenty years for this deadly disease to fully present itself and the damage it has done. This presents a very difficult challenge for doctors and the medical community in diagnosing mesothelioma and in many cases patients with this disease are either not aware that they have it or do not ask the doctor to specifically check for symptoms of mesothelioma.

If a patient notes a history of asbestos exposure or contamination a doctor will immediately start looking for signs of the disease, most notably within the tissues and lining surrounding the lungs, heart and stomach areas. They will likely also begin with a full physical examination to determine the possible causes of patient discomfort. This will usually involve some lung and chest x-rays if the patient is reporting difficulty in breathing which is often a common ailment of mesothelioma suffers.

The physician will also order a number of pulmonary procedures to test the area around the lungs in particular since three quarters of all mesothelioma cases occur in the lining and tissue around the lungs. Follow up CAT scans and MRI tests may also be ordered if the preliminary tests show the probability of mesothelioma and these tests should be able to confirm or deny the presence of mesothelioma. They can also aid the medical personnel in being to determine the exact size and location of any tumors that may have developed as a result of the progress of the mesothelioma.

The next steps that a doctor may take are to request a biopsy of the affected area. This is a procedure to remove a piece of tissue from the area where mesothelioma is suspected and once that biopsy has been performed then the tissue sample can be tested further to determine the type of mesothelioma tumor that is present in the patient. Tissues that come back as benign usually mean that the tumor is not cancerous and while it may not be comfortable for the patient, benign tumors are rarely fatal. Malignant mesothelioma tumors however are cancerous and pose a great threat to the health and life of the patient.

  1. Physical Examination
    As with all diseases, a doctor begins the mesothelioma diagnosis by doing a complete physical exam and reviewing your medical history. Because mesothelioma is almost always caused by breathing in asbestos exposure (see Causes of Mesothelioma), you should tell your doctor about your exposure to asbestos if you suspect you may have mesothelioma.
    After performing the physical exam, a doctor should have x-rays of the chest performed and, in some cases, pulmonary function tests to determine if the symptoms are consistent with malignant mesothelioma.
  2. CT Scans and MRI's to Diagnose Mesothelioma
    In many cases, a doctor may order CT scans and/or MRI's to aid in the mesothelioma diagnosis. These tools allow a doctor to assess the size, location, and extent of the mesothelioma tumor in the chest or abdomen.
  3. Biopsy to Diagnose Mesothelioma
    All of the steps described above are only preliminary indications of mesothelioma. If, after performing these tests, a doctor suspects mesothelioma, a biopsy should be taken to confirm the mesothelioma diagnoses.

Although a biopsy is the most effective procedure for diagnosing mesothelioma, malignant mesothelioma cells can look like other types of cancer. Therefore, special laboratory tests are sometimes performed or electron microscopes are used to confirm a diagnosis of mesothelioma.