Skip to content

    Lung Disease & Respiratory Health Center

    Font Size
    A
    A
    A

    Mesothelioma: Tests, Diagnosis, and Treatments

    Mesothelioma is cancer of the mesothelium, a protective membrane that lines many of the body's internal organs. Most often, mesothelioma occurs in the lining of the lungs, called the pleura.

    Mesothelioma is most often diagnosed after a patient sees a doctor because of symptoms such as pain in the lower back, shortness of breath, fatigue, weight loss, abdominal pain and/or swelling. But symptoms alone will not tell your doctor if you have mesothelioma. A medical history, physical exam, and diagnostic tests are necessary to confirm a mesothelioma diagnosis.

    Recommended Related to Lung Disease/Respiratory Problems

    Outdoor Pollution and Lung Function Effects

    In 1996, the city of Atlanta took dramatic steps to improve the city's air quality for the summer Olympics. In the process, it showed how reducing air pollution can improve lung function. What city officials did -- switching to rapid transit and buses that ran on natural gas instead of diesel -- decreased asthma attacks by up to 44% in children and ozone concentrations by 28%, the CDC reported in a study in 2001 in The Journal of the American Medical Association. "It seemed easier to breathe,"...

    Read the Outdoor Pollution and Lung Function Effects article > >

    Medical History and Physical Exam

    Because mesothelioma is uncommon, it is often misdiagnosed initially. If you have symptoms that suggest you might have mesothelioma, your doctor will likely take a complete medical history to check for symptoms and possible risk factors, especially asbestos exposure. Exposure to asbestos is the No. 1 risk factor for mesothelioma.

    Your doctor will also ask about your general health and perform an exam to check for possible signs of mesothelioma. These may include fluid in the chest cavity, abdomen, or pericardium (the thin membrane around the heart).

    Depending on the findings of the exam, your doctor may refer you for mesothelioma testing.

    Mesothelioma Tests

    There are several different types of mesothelioma tests. These include:

    Blood Tests. Blood levels of 3 substances -- fibulib-3, osteopontin, and soluble mesothelin-related peptides (SMRPs) -- are often elevated in people with mesothelioma. Although these blood tests cannot confirm a diagnosis of mesothelioma, high levels of these substances make mesothelioma more likely.

    Fluid and Tissue Sample Tests. If you have a buildup of fluid in the body that may be related to mesothelioma, your doctor can remove a sample of the fluid by inserting a needle through the skin into the area of fluid buildup. The fluid can then be examined under a microscope for cancer cells. If cancer cells are found, further tests can determine if the cancer is mesothelioma.

    This test goes by different names, depending on where the fluid is:

    Even if your doctor does not find mesothelioma cells in fluid, that doesn't necessarily mean you don't have mesothelioma. Sometimes samples of actual tissue (biopsies) are needed to diagnose mesothelioma.

    1 | 2 | 3

    Today on WebMD

    man coughing
    You may not even know you have it.
    blood clot
    Signs of this potentially fatal complication.
     
    man coughing
    When a cold becomes bronchitis.
    human lungs
    Causes behind painful breathing, fluid buildup.
     

    chest x-ray
    Slideshow
    Bronchitis Overview
    SLIDESHOW
     
    Copd Myth Fact Quiz
    QUIZ
    Energy Boosting Foods
    SLIDESHOW
     

    lungs
    Article
    smokestacks
    Article
     
    woman coughing
    Article
    Lung xray and caduceus
    Article