Mesothelioma Diagnosis

The key to optimizing life expectancy for mesothelioma patients often lies in an early diagnosis. Unfortunately, this condition is rarely identified in its earliest stages. This is in part due to mesothelioma being so rare, and in part due to the fact that its symptoms mimic so many common, benign conditions.

With only 3,500 Americans diagnosed with mesothelioma each year, only an extremely experienced physician who has previously encountered the disease, or one who has an awareness of their patient having previously been exposed to asbestos, would lead to immediate testing for this rare form of cancer. Instead, bas a physician will go through the typical steps of a differential diagnosis, opting to treat symptoms based on their most common and likely causes. This means that an older patient presenting with a cough and a fever would likely be treated for bronchitis or a cold rather than sent for X-rays or a biopsy; a patient presenting with stomach pain might be treated for constipation or the flu.

It is only when an extended period of time goes by without improvement — or with worsening of symptoms — that most physicians take a closer look, asking questions about occupational exposures and ultimately ordering more invasive testing that leads to a confirmed diagnosis. In most cases, the testing that leads to a diagnosis of mesothelioma take three different forms:

  • Diagnostic imaging tests, including MRIs, CT scans, PET scans, Ultrasounds, and X-rays
  • Blood tests including SOMAmer and MESOMARK
  • Biopsies to remove tissue samples for examination in the laboratory

Though blood work and imaging tests can help to guide a diagnosis, the only test that provides a confirmed diagnosis is a biopsy, which is the most invasive of the three types of testing.

In many cases, it will be a specialist who will order this type of testing, as results obtained through diagnostic imaging or blood work generally lead to a primary care physician referring a patient to a specialist like an oncologist or thoracic surgeon. These physicians will work in tandem with others, including radiologists and pathologists, to review the results of your tests and provide a diagnosis. They will also work to assess how far your cancer has spread and what the best treatment course is for your specific situation.

If you would like a complimentary copy of our comprehensive guide to mesothelioma, complete this form or call us directly at 1-800-763-9286 to order a copy. We believe you will find it extremely helpful and informative.