Mesothelioma Diagnosis

Mesothelioma is a rare cancer of the mesothelium, or the layer of tissue covering the internal organs. Several types of mesothelioma can affect different organs. Mesothelioma can be difficult to diagnose, as symptoms are nonspecific and can be mistaken for other conditions. In order to confirm a diagnosis of mesothelioma, your doctor will consider the interaction of several factors.

Consider Your Medical History

One of the most important factors in making a diagnosis of mesothelioma is a thorough examination of your personal and medical history. The primary cause of all types of mesothelioma is exposure to asbestos, a fiber once used in construction, primarily for insulation. If you’ve been exposed to asbestos, you may be at risk for developing mesothelioma. Since mesothelioma is relatively rare among cancers, it’s important to mention any asbestos exposure to your doctor so she can consider mesothelioma as a possible diagnosis.

Symptoms of Mesothelioma

Symptoms of mesothelioma depend on the type of mesothelioma affecting your body. Mesothelioma can be divided into three main types:

  • Pericardial mesothelioma affects the tissue covering the heart, and can have symptoms such as irregular heartbeat and chest pain.
  • Peritoneal mesothelioma affects the tissue covering the abdominal organs, and symptoms can include weight loss and abdominal pain.
  • Pleural mesothelioma is the most common type of mesothelioma, and affects the tissue covering the lungs. Its symptoms include chest pain and difficulty breathing.

Symptoms don’t develop until long after asbestos exposure, and even then, the symptoms can mimic symptoms of other conditions. For example, pleural mesothelioma has respiratory symptoms that can be confused for other respiratory diseases. Peritoneal mesothelioma, which affects the abdomen, can produce symptoms that can be mistaken for other diseases affecting the abdominal organs. Your doctor should be able to determine whether your symptoms are due to mesothelioma or another disease.

Mesothelioma Test Results

If your doctor suspects mesothelioma based on your personal history and presenting symptoms, he’ll conduct a series of tests to verify a diagnosis of mesothelioma. A mesothelioma test includes imaging tests, such as X-rays or CT scans, which can detect abnormal thickening of the mesothelium. If abnormal results are found, your doctor may perform a biopsy, a process in which a small piece of tissue is removed from the area in question and tested directly for cancerous cells.

Blood tests for mesothelioma are now becoming available to help make a diagnosis. Blood test results may be able to help reveal mesothelioma earlier than waiting for symptoms to develop. These blood tests may help doctors to provide a diagnosis and begin treatment sooner than later.

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