Determining Diagnosis of Mesothelioma
To determine a mesothelioma diagnosis, doctors first have to rule out other, more common conditions that may be causing the symptoms. If doctors still suspect that mesothelioma could be present, they will do more in-depth tests to see if cancer cells are present.
Malignant mesothelioma is diagnosed by:
- Monitoring initial symptoms: Initial symptoms of mesothelioma, such as a dry cough, chest pain, shortness of breath, or loss of weight and appetite, are typically mild and mimic symptoms of other more common health issues. These symptoms only worsen as the cancer grows.
- Conducting early tests: To rule out other possible diseases, doctors may use imaging tests, such as an X-ray or a computed tomography (CT) scan, and take blood samples to look for signs of cancer.
- Confirming a diagnosis: The only way to completely confirm a mesothelioma diagnosis is by taking a biopsy (samples of fluid and/or tissue) of the affected area. Biopsies allow doctors to study the samples under a microscope to see if malignancies are present.
If you suspect that mesothelioma may be the cause of your symptoms, follow up with your doctor and talk to them about your history of asbestos exposure. Early detection and diagnosis are key to receiving potentially life-saving treatment.
Video Summary: Nurse Amy Fair discusses what to expect after getting a diagnosis of mesothelioma. This holistic disease affects not only the victim but the family and the caretaker too. View Transcript.
The most important thing folks that have been diagnosed with mesothelioma need to do is to take one minute and one day at a time. To get a diagnosis and try to fast forward about the when’s and the what’s and the how’s of what’s going to happen next month, or in six months or a year, can be very overwhelming.
When talking with families of someone that’s been diagnosed with mesothelioma, I encourage them to first let that particular person go through the stages of the feelings that they’re going to go through with this disease.
It’s important that the caregivers stay healthy too. They need to still be able to get away. They still need to be able to surround themselves with support through their family and through their church and through their friends.
Many times, when caregivers are struggling with the change of life that they are going through with this disease, I encourage them to reach out to; if they have local support groups there some of the oncologists can refer them to some local support groups. If they do not have those resources, then I do refer them directly to a mesothelioma support group.
The clients I have work with that have made the most profound impression with me are the clients that, they just needed someone to talk to and sometimes it’s not about medical, it’s not about the side effects of chemotherapy, it’s just sharing a memory of their loved one.
I get cards from them for different occasions, and there’s always a note that says that we made a difference.
- Mesothelioma is not usually diagnosed until 20-50 years after exposure to asbestos.
- Approximately 3,000 people are diagnosed with mesothelioma each year, according to information from the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO).
- Most people diagnosed with mesothelioma are 65 years old or older.
- Mesothelioma can sometimes be diagnosed in younger adults, including teenagers and children, as noted in case studies from the Journal of Pediatric Surgery and the peer-reviewed journal Digestive Diseases and Sciences.