In most cases, the initial diagnosis of mesothelioma is made by the patient’s primary care physician (PCP). He or she knows the patient’s medical and pharmaceutical history, habits, and lifestyle, and can more readily differentiate between mesothelioma symptoms and those of other diseases.
If the PCP suspects mesothelioma, he or she will most likely order one of three different types of diagnostic tests to “rule out” the disease. These three possible tests are:
- Non-Invasive Diagnostic Tests (e.g., X-rays, CT scans, MRIs, PET scans, etc.), which do not involve the removal of blood, body fluid or tissue samples
- Minimally Invasive Diagnostic Tests (e.g., fine needle biopsy) during which a technician will remove and examine small samples of the body’s fluids, such as tissue, blood, pleural fluid, and biologic markers
- Invasive Diagnostic Tests (e.g., biopsies) that involve taking larger tissue samples for examination under an electron microscope or with other tools
Even with these tools, mesothelioma remains more difficult to recognize when the disease is in its early and treatable stages. Tragically, many a mesothelioma diagnosis is made after it becomes too advanced to treat.
If you suspect you have mesothelioma, you should immediately report your symptoms to your primary care physician and submit yourself for evaluation.
Diagnosis of mesothelioma is a multi-stage process involving a variety of laboratory procedures. While no tests for mesothelioma exist, a variety of related tests can be performed to confirm a preliminary diagnosis of mesothelioma.
These “mesothelioma tests” start with the physician’s examination of the patient’s medical and work history or any exposure asbestos. Any proximity to or exposure of the patient to asbestos or asbestos-bearing material during his or her lifetime dramatically raises the probability that mesothelioma is behind the patient’s presenting symptoms. A thorough medical examination is also performed.
If mesothelioma is suspected the examining physician may order one or more diagnostic laboratory tests to confirm their suspicions. For example, X-ray, CT, and/or MRI scans may be performed, and biopsy samples of the patient’s blood, body fluids and tissue examined for the presence of malignant mesothelial cells.
If the signs of mesothelioma are not present, the preliminary diagnosis of mesothelioma will be discarded and the search will begin for other causes behind the patient’s symptoms.
In the future, a dedicated test for mesothelioma may be possible. For now, however, the only way to discover if a given patient has mesothelioma is through an exacting series of tests for signs of the cancer.