The process of mesothelioma diagnosis involves a number of steps that are all necessary and important.
The entire process begins with an individual recognizing the common signs and symptoms of the illness such as shortness of breath, wheezing or even coughing up blood.
When symptoms are recognized, a primary care Physician or oncologist may begin the diagnosis process.
The symptoms of mesothelioma are quite similar to a number of other conditions, so the diagnosis process is usually quite difficult. Nonetheless, one of the most important factors in diagnosis is the analysis of the patient's medical history.
Mesothelioma Diagnosis and Asbestos Exposure
Since mesothelioma is often the result of asbestos exposure, and history of exposure to this material will be of significance. After this, the chest X-ray may be taken. Doctors are usually searching for a thickening in the lining of the lungs which will lead to a suspicion of mesothelioma.
An X-ray computed tomography, also known as a CT scan, will likely be the next step. The CT scan uses a computer to create a 3D image of the lungs which will give doctors a good idea as to whether the lining of the lungs (pleura) has been affected by asbestos exposure.
Magnetic Resonance Imaging (or an MRI) may also be performed at this time because this process makes tumors more easily identifiable.
Biopsy For Mesothelioma Diagnosis
If doctors are suspicious of cancer, they will perform a biopsy to remove a sample of tissue in the affected area. This biopsy may be performed in a number of different ways which is determined by the location of the affected area.
If the area is in the chest, a doctor will likely perform a thoracoscopy -- inserting a small tube between the ribs to obtained a sample of tissue. A surgeon may perform a thoracotomy which involves surgically opening the chest to remove a sample of tissue.
Alternatively, if the affected area is in the abdomen a doctor may perform a laparoscopy which involves inserting a small instrument into the abdominal cavity to retrieve a sample.
This simple tissue is then sent to a pathologist who examines it closely under a microscope. The pathologist will perform no less than five different 'immunohistochemistry' tests on the sample to determine a mesothelioma diagnosis.