The diagnosis of mesothelioma is quite problematic because the symptoms of this disease mimic that of many others. Because of this, patients with mesothelioma are often misdiagnosed with lung or stomach cancer or pneumonia, among others.
The incorrect diagnoses mean that patients receive the wrong treatment, further exacerbating their conditions. Late diagnosis and the incorrect treatment, also means that the patient’s chances of recovery may be severely compromised. There are certain diagnosis steps that the patient and medical professional can take to decrease this status.
Provide a comprehensive history of symptoms
When the patient provides a comprehensive history of their symptoms, the chances of a correct diagnosis are improved. This is particularly true when the patient has received industry information when working in an environment known to contain asbestos.
They can then immediately inform the medical professional about their exposure to asbestos, resulting in specific tests being conducted. These tests will be specifically aimed at confirmation of a mesothelioma diagnosis. A biopsy test typically confirms mesothelioma, and can take place with the use of a:
- Fine-needle aspiration, or an
- Endobronchial ultrasound-guided biopsy
No sign of asbestos exposure
When a patient suffers mesothelioma-like symptoms, but is not aware of their cause or exposure to asbestos, achieving the correct diagnosis is often a problem. In cases such as this, the medical professional will go through a familiar range of tests. All these tests are conducted in an effort to ascertain the cause of the symptoms, which will be followed by the appropriate treatment.
Regrettably, because mesothelioma is difficult to diagnose, common testing activities result in inadequate treatment. These steps will often begin with a patient visit to a medical professional for help, presenting with common symptoms.
Common steps in efforts to diagnose mesothelioma
Patients may experience respiratory problems, prompting them to visit a medical doctor. These respiratory symptoms will comprise shortness of breath, dry coughing, wheezing, chest pain or abdominal pains. Fever and night sweats may follow, together with fluid around the lungs, exhaustion and muscle weakness.
The steps taken to diagnose these generalized symptoms include:
- A radiology exam of the chest area through x-rays
- A CT scan of the abdominal and chest areas
Abnormalities will be revealed from these tests, encouraging further tests by a specialist oncologist or surgeon. As is evident, there is no quick route to an easy diagnosis for this disease.
Specialist medical testing
Following a referral from a general medical practitioner to a specialist, more tests will be conducted. A range of blood tests will be implemented. Imaging scans will be ordered. Once the results of these tests are available, the medical specialist will be in a better position to determine whether a diagnosis of mesothelioma is appropriate. If not yet satisfied, a biopsy may be ordered as indicated above.
As this disease is so rare and patients are not typically aware of their asbestos exposure or otherwise, a quick diagnosis of this disease is unlikely. Unless patients are aware of asbestos exposure and are informed about its dangers, they will be unlikely to provide their medical professional with adequate information.
Rapid diagnosis means appropriate treatment
No clear steps for diagnosis fit every patient. What is important is that this disease is diagnosed as quickly as possible so the correct treatment can be prescribed. A rapid and correct diagnosis can mean all the difference between the chances of recovery and leading a quality lifestyle in the face of this challenging disease.
Treatment options encompass radiation, surgery, radiotherapy, chemotherapy, immunotherapy and molecular targeted therapy. These treatments will depend on the specific diagnosis for mesothelioma, the patient, the specialist and other variables, all providing more evidence of the difficulties in the correct diagnosis of this disease.