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

Risks of Neuroblastoma Screening

Screening tests have risks. Decisions about screening tests can be difficult. Not all screening tests are helpful and most have risks. Before having any screening test, you may want to discuss the test with your doctor. It is important to know the risks of the test and whether it has been proven to reduce the risk of dying from cancer. The risks of neuroblastoma screening include the following: Neuroblastoma may be overdiagnosed. When a screening test result leads to the diagnosis and treatment...

Read the Risks of Neuroblastoma Screening 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 two substances, 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:

  • Thoracentesis -- chest cavity
  • Paracentesis -- abdomen
  • Pericardiocentesis -- membrane around the heart

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
 

Pollen counts, treatment tips, and more.

It's nothing to sneeze at.

Loading ...

Sending your email...

This feature is temporarily unavailable. Please try again later.

Thanks!

Now check your email account on your mobile phone to download your new app.

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