Diagnosis of Mesothelioma begins with a physical examination by the doctor to find any lumps or unusual signs in the areas of the body. This preliminary Mesothelioma diagnosis is carried out when a person reports the signs and symptoms of Mesothelioma.
It is good to see a doctor as soon as any person detects signs and symptoms of Mesothelioma, as this can provide the sooner treatment and a chance to extend the life expectancy if Mesothelioma is diagnosed. These signs and symptoms must be taken as an alarm especially by the people who have a history of asbestos exposure in their personal or professional lives.
Doctors will usually conduct a physical examination if the signs and symptoms of the patient indicate signs of Mesothelioma. These physical check-ups are done to check for any lumps or any unusual signs in the body. The diagnosis of Mesothelioma is confirmed through biopsy, and the doctor might suggest a chest x-ray, CT scan, or blood test.
These tests are carried out to find cancerous Mesothelioma cells in the parts of the body especially chest and abdomen. The results and findings of these tests determine further the need for testing to diagnose Mesothelioma cancer.
While diagnosis can provide good information on the presence of Mesothelioma in the patient’s body, biopsy provides a detailed view of the same. A biopsy is a process used by the doctors to determine the presence of Mesothelioma cancer in a person’s body. The biopsy is carried out by removing a small portion of tissue from the body of the patient for laboratory examination.
How the Extent of The Cancer Is Determined?
Additional tests are performed to find the spread of the cancer in the body of the patient once, the Mesothelioma cancer is confirmed. These tests not only provide the data on the spread of the Mesothelioma cancer but also the extent to which it is spread in the body. That is whether the Mesothelioma cancer has spread to lymph nodes or to other areas of your body.
Different Types of Mesothelioma Tests:
- CT scans of the chest and abdomen
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
- Positron emission tomography (PET)
The Mesothelioma tests mentioned here, are referred to the patients on the doctor’s recommendation. The doctor determines the type of test needed for the patient as the not very test is applicable to every person.
The information generated through these tests is analyzed by the doctors to assign the stage of cancer in the patient.
Stages of Cancer
The stage of Mesothelioma cancer is identified using a scale based on Roman numerals. E.g. from I TP IV. This means there are 4 stages pf the Mesothelioma cancer. The 1st stage of Mesothelioma cancer suggests that the cancer is not spread too much in the body and it is mostly near the lungs. The 4th stage on the other hand means that cancer has spread into the other parts of the body.
With the advancement in technology, the staging system of the Mesothelioma is becoming more complex and more precise. This will not only help in the detection of cancer in a better way but will also help the doctors to provide the right kind of treatment based on the results of the same.
Steps Leading to Mesothelioma Diagnosis?
There are three major steps that lead to the Mesothelioma cancer diagnosis. These three steps are Symptoms detection, Mesothelioma Testing and Confirm Diagnosis.
Symptoms: The first step of Mesothelioma diagnosis is the detection of symptoms of cancer. This discovery of symptoms makes the patient have an appointment with the physician or the hospital for further analysis and testing.
Mesothelioma Cancer Testing: The second step in the Mesothelioma diagnosis is when the common tests are conducted to verify the existence of cancer in the body of the patient. Generally, these tests include X-rays and CT scans of the body parts such as the chest and abdomen. If these tests confirm the existence of cancer in the body then the next step follows.
Confirm Diagnosis: A combination of imaging scans, blood tests, and biopsies are used by the surgeon or oncologist to confirm Mesothelioma diagnosis.
Why there is no Clear Path to a Mesothelioma Cancer Diagnosis for Every Patient.
The rareness of the disease and its symptoms make the situation confusing for the doctors initially. Mesothelioma cancer has symptoms that are also found in some common illnesses. It is common that the patients of mesothelioma have higher cases of misdiagnosis due to this confusion.
The patients and the people having symptoms can greatly benefit the Diagnosis process and themselves by keeping a work history. Providing this work history to the doctor can help the diagnosis process, the description of any asbestos exposure that may have occurred earlier in life could provide a good lead to the doctor for prescribing the direction of the diagnosis.
It is to be understood that the occurrence of Mesothelioma happens only after 20 to 50 years after the initial exposure to asbestos.
Tests for Mesothelioma
The tests of Mesothelioma to identify the tumour includes:
- Imaging Scans such as X-rays and CT-scans.
- Blood Tests
Imaging Tests Used in Mesothelioma Diagnosis
There are variety of tests used by the Doctors in diagnosis of Mesothelioma, the tests that particularly use imaging techniques are following:
- X-Rays: This test provides images to detect the tumors and fluids within the patient’s body. These are detected by the densities of various areas in the body that get captured in the images derived from this test.
- CT Scans (Computerized Tomography) OR CAT scans: This test is a technological step ahead of the X-ray. It uses computer software to integrate many X-rays together to form a precise image of the body which enables the doctors to more easily detect the tumor of Mesothelioma Cancer.
- MRIs (Magnetic Resonance Imaging): This test uses electromagnetic technology. To generate images of the body that are precise, which can help the Doctors in looking at a bone, nerve, and brain tissue for the disease symptoms.
- PET Scans (Positron emission tomography): In this test, the patient is injected with an intravenous dose of radioactive glucose. This injection of radioactive glucose makes the inflamed cell in the patient’s body light up on the scan.
Biopsies can be used to confirm a Mesothelioma diagnosis. There are many types of Biopsies that can be used for Mesothelioma Diagnosis but it is observed that the Thoracoscopy is the most accurate. Following are the types of Biopsies that can be used:
Thoracoscopy: In this method, a small camera is inserted into the patient’s body to examine the appearance of the inside of the body and take Biopsies. The camera in this process is inserted between the ribs, under anesthesia, to check the chest for Mesothelioma Diagnosis.
Mediastinoscopy: In this procedure, the camera is inserted into the patient’s body by the surgeon (under anesthesia). This insertion takes place in the back of the neck of the patient to obtain biopsies of the lymph nodes around the windpipe.
Thoracentesis: In this process, a small needle is inserted between the ribs of the patient’s body to get pleural fluid build-up around the lungs to diagnose Mesothelioma. This process is carried under local anesthesia.
Fine-Needle Aspiration: Under local anesthesia, a small needle is inserted between the ribs to sample or biopsy tumors while the patient is in the CT scan machine.
Endobronchial Ultrasound-Guided Biopsy: This type of biopsy is helpful at diagnosing pleural Mesothelioma when other biopsy techniques can’t obtain a tumor sample.
Mesothelioma Blood Tests and Biomarkers
Mesothelioma blood tests, biomarkers and immunohistochemical markers are not accurate enough to diagnose the cancer alone. They are helpful at monitoring response to treatment.
MESOMARK: This FDA-approved test detects soluble mesothelin-related peptide.
SOM Amer: This test can detect more than 1,000 proteins in blood serum. These proteins may have diagnostic value in identifying Mesothelioma.
Human MPF: This test measures a protein called megakaryocyte potentiation factor.
We hope that in coming time, science has more solutions for diagnosis as well as cure for Mesothelioma Cancer.
By – Ravinder Singh – (Contributing Author)