How Is Mesothelioma Diagnosed?

Published on May 21, 2024, by Law Office of Matthew L. Sharp


Curious how is mesothelioma diagnosed? Learn about the diagnostic process for mesothelioma, including tests, imaging, and biopsies.

Mesothelioma is a rare and aggressive form of cancer that affects the mesothelial cells lining the lungs, abdomen, heart, or testicles.

Due to its latency period and nonspecific symptoms, mesothelioma is often diagnosed at an advanced stage, making treatment more challenging. The most common form of mesothelioma, pleural mesothelioma, attacks the lining of the lungs and chest and accounts for about 82.1% of cases, per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

However, early detection through timely diagnosis is crucial for improving prognosis and treatment outcomes. In this blog post, we’ll explore how is mesothelioma diagnosed. As part of this, we’ll delve into the various methods and procedures used to diagnose mesothelioma here in Nevada, from initial screening to confirmatory tests.

Mesothelioma Diagnosis

According to the American Lung Association, nearly 3,000 people are diagnosed with mesothelioma in the US each year. Roughly 80% of these cases report asbestos exposure.

Diagnosing mesothelioma involves a series of steps aimed at identifying the presence of cancerous cells and determining the extent of disease progression. Since mesothelioma shares symptoms with other respiratory and abdominal conditions, an accurate diagnosis requires a comprehensive evaluation by medical professionals with expertise in oncology and pathology.

Initial Evaluation and Medical History

The diagnostic process typically begins with a thorough review of the patient’s medical history, including any known asbestos exposure or relevant occupational and environmental factors.

Asbestos exposure is the primary risk factor for mesothelioma, and a detailed medical and employment history can help guide further diagnostic testing and evaluation.

Physical Examination and Symptom Assessment

A physical examination may be conducted to assess the patient’s overall health and identify any signs or symptoms that may suggest mesothelioma.

Common symptoms of mesothelioma include chest pain, shortness of breath, persistent cough, abdominal swelling, and unexplained weight loss. However, it’s important to note that these symptoms can vary depending on the location and stage of your cancer.

Imaging Studies

Imaging studies play a crucial role in diagnosing mesothelioma and assessing the extent of tumor growth and spread. Common imaging procedures used in mesothelioma diagnosis include:

  • X-rays: X-rays may reveal abnormalities such as pleural effusions (buildup of fluid in the chest cavity) or thickening of the pleura (lining of the lungs).
  • Computed Tomography (CT) Scan: CT scans provide detailed cross-sectional images of the chest, abdomen, or other affected areas, allowing for a more precise assessment of tumor size, location, and involvement of nearby structures.
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI): MRI scans use powerful magnets and radio waves to create detailed images of soft tissues, helping to visualize tumors and assess their characteristics.

Biopsy and Tissue Sampling

A definitive diagnosis of mesothelioma is typically confirmed through a biopsy, which involves the removal of a small sample of tissue for microscopic examination. Depending on the location of the tumor, various biopsy techniques may be employed, including:

  • Thoracoscopy or Pleuroscopy: A thin, flexible tube with a camera (endoscope) is inserted into the chest cavity to visualize and obtain tissue samples from the pleura.
  • Laparoscopy: Similar to thoracoscopy, laparoscopy involves the insertion of a camera into the abdominal cavity to collect tissue samples from the peritoneum.
  • Fine Needle Aspiration (FNA) Biopsy: A thin needle is used to extract cells or fluid from a suspicious area, such as a pleural or peritoneal mass, for cytological examination.

Histopathological Examination

Once tissue samples are obtained, they are sent to a pathology laboratory for histopathological examination.

A pathologist examines the samples under a microscope to identify the presence of mesothelioma cells and assess their characteristics, including cell type and degree of malignancy (abnormal cells).

Staging and Evaluation

After a diagnosis of mesothelioma is confirmed, further tests may be performed to determine the stage of the disease and assess prognosis.

Staging helps classify the extent of tumor spread and guides treatment decisions. Common staging techniques for mesothelioma include imaging studies, such as CT scans, MRI, and positron emission tomography (PET) scans, as well as invasive procedures, such as thoracoscopy or laparoscopy.

Diagnosing mesothelioma requires a multidisciplinary approach involving clinical evaluation, imaging studies, biopsy, and histopathological examination.

Early detection and accurate diagnosis are essential for initiating timely treatment and improving patient outcomes. If you or a loved one experience symptoms suggestive of mesothelioma or have a history of asbestos exposure, it’s important to seek medical attention promptly and consult with healthcare professionals specializing in mesothelioma diagnosis and treatment.

Remember, early intervention can make a significant difference in the management of this challenging disease.

If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with mesothelioma due to asbestos exposure, and you suspect that someone is liable, contact us at the Law Office of Matthew L. Sharp. We have mesothelioma lawyers in Reno and Las Vegas who will meet with you for free to discuss any legal options Nevada law may afford you in your predicament.