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How Is Mesothelioma Diagnosed?

By Michael LoRe
Patients presenting symptoms of mesothelioma may be examined in a variety of ways including imaging, blood test, or fluid and tissue sample test.

Malignant mesothelioma is a rare form of cancer that affects the mesothelium, a protective membrane that covers the lungs, abdominal cavity, and other vital organs. Mesothelioma has been linked to asbestos exposure. But how do health professionals diagnose this life-threatening illness?

Unfortunately, there is a lengthy latency period between asbestos exposure and potential asbestos-related illness, including mesothelioma. Typically, a period ranging from 10 to 40 years may need to pass before any symptoms are noticeable.

Here are some symptoms to be aware of before consulting your physician regarding any potential asbestos-related illnesses.

  • Difficulty breathing or swallowing
  • Fluid in or around the lungs
  • Chest or abdomen pain
  • Respiratory complications
  • Shortness of breath

If you have been exhibiting some or all of these symptoms after asbestos exposure, you should consult a doctor to be examined for any potential asbestos-related illness, including mesothelioma.

Imaging tests

Because many asbestos-related illness affect the lungs or abdominal cavity, your physician will conduct imaging testing including X-ray, MRI or CT scan to get a better insight into your issue and its potential severity.

Blood test

A blood test can also be an indicator whether or not you have mesothelioma though it cannot confirm diagnosis. Levels of three substances—osteopontin, fibulin-3, and soluble mesothelin-related peptides (SMRPs)—are typically higher in patients with mesothelioma and those results could be a good indicator that mesothelioma is present, resulting in further examination and testing.

Fluid and tissue sample test

Your physician may also give you a fluid and tissue sample test if you have a buildup of fluid in your body. The sample, extracted via needle inserted into the part of the body where the buildup is present, will be examined under a microscope and analyzed for cancer cells.

Should any of these tests yield abnormal results, you will be directed to a specialist, including an oncologist or surgeon, for further testing and treatment of mesothelioma.