Determining a mesothelioma diagnosis can be very difficult for several reasons. There are many types of mesothelioma cancer cells, so it can be difficult for a doctor to determine which type of cancer a patient may be experiencing. For example, pleural mesothelioma can resemble other types of lung cancer, and peritoneal mesothelioma can resemble ovarian cancer.
If a doctor suspects that mesothelioma may be the cause of a patient’s symptoms, then numerous tests will be ordered to determine a correct diagnosis. Some patients may require surgery to reveal the cause of their symptoms. This surgery is known as a thoracoscopy or open pleural biopsy.
What Happens Before a Mesothelioma Diagnosis?
Patients commonly begin by seeing a family physician who examines them and asks about their general health and symptoms. During a physical examination, the doctor will feel the area where there is swelling or pain to see if they can find a lump. The doctor also will listen to a patient’s chest to see if there are any signs of fluid collecting.
After the examination, the doctor may recommend a specialist and hospital for further tests. These tests can expose whether a growth is cancerous, where in the body the cancer originated, and what types of cells are involved. The cell type and cancer’s location play a major role when it comes to planning treatment.
If a patient sees a specialist, then they will be examined, their medical history will be discussed, and they may have some routine blood tests to check their general health. Other tests, such as X-rays and CT scans, will be arranged in the outpatient department.
When testing a patient for possible mesothelioma, doctors typically rely on a combination of a CT-scan and PET-scan. With results from both tests, doctors can get a closer look inside the body and view whether suspect growths are cancerous or noncancerous. Possible cancerous growths are obvious on PET-scans, but not on CT-scans or MRIs. For diagnosing peritoneal mesothelioma, an X-ray, CT-scan and laparoscopy are used. However, surgery is the most precise way to diagnose mesothelioma. Unfortunately, surgical procedures are an invasive and sometimes can’t be performed on patients who are in poor health or experiencing late-stage mesothelioma.
What Happens After a Mesothelioma Diagnosis?
The diagnostic tests used before surgery assist doctors in determining the cancer’s stage of progression, which is referred to as clinical staging. These tools are extremely advanced, but surgery remains the most accurate way to determine a cancer’s stage.
The images generated by the scans give an inside view of the body that illustrates where tumors are growing. Imaging tests are the most noninvasive tools doctors utilize for estimating the stage, growth and spread of mesothelioma cancer. Radiologists use these images to discover how far the cancer has spread before determining the stage of the cancer based on what they see.