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Diagnosis of Mesothelioma
Your doctor will complete a thorough exam which will include asking you
questions about your history of exposure to asbestos, your profession, and
questions about military experience. After a verbal consultation, your physician
will combine the information you supply with radiology examinations and pathology
methods to reach a diagnosis.
Tumor Markers/Blood Test
This type of testing is usually performed during the initial suspicion of
mesothelioma as it can detect some tumors even before they are large enough
to be visible. It measures blood levels for certain chemical substances that
would be present in a patient with mesothelioma. These chemical substances
are picked up because they are not normally existent in the body unless there
is a tumor. They are produced either by the tumor itself or as a byproduct
of the tumor's growth in the body.
Abnormalities in the lung or pleura seen on an x-ray will warrant performance
of a CT/CAT scan. A CT/CAT scan is a two-dimensional view of details seen
on an x-ray. It provides a more thorough view of the thickness of tissues
and bone by using an x-ray beam that rotates around the patient's body.
You may be given an injection of dye into the suspected tumor area to better
This procedure allows the doctor to see the size, location and extent of
tumor development. It can take anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour and is
not painful, but may be uncomfortable because you must lie still during the
An MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) is helpful to doctors because it further
delineates the extent of the disease. If a CT scan shows chest wall invasion,
an MRI is useful in further viewing the tumor. Through the combined use of
magnetic fields, radio waves and a computer, an MRI creates images of selected
areas of the body.
Because this type of procedure is excellent at showing contrast between
tumors and normal cell tissues, it aids doctors in viewing the degree of disease.
It clearly shows where tumors have developed in the patient's body.
Another procedure that assists doctors with determining the extent or stage
of disease is the use of Positron Emission Tomography or PET scan. This type
of procedure is useful in identifying very small tumors because it uses cameras
and tracers to form images that indicate biological changes in the body.
A compound such as glucose is injected into the body with a signal emitting
tracer in it. A scanner will then record the signals that the tracers emit
as they travel through the body and collect in different organs. Cancer metabolizes
glucose at a higher rate than normal tissues or organs would so the results
of the scan can tell the doctor if cancer is present because it shows abnormal
A pleuroscopy involves making tiny incisions between the ribs and inserting
a long thin tube with a video camera at the end (called a pleuroscope) into
the chest cavity. Doctors can consequently view the inside of the patient's
chest on a video monitor to determine how to progress with treatment.
The doctor can then determine if tissue samples need to be taken or if fluid
needs to be removed after viewing the chest cavity with a pleuroscope. A peritoneoscopy
is performed to obtain samples of tissue from the abdomen.
Immunohistochemistry or IHC
This type of diagnostic procedure is usually used to determine what type
of tumor is present. Immunohistochemistry involves the process of locating
proteins in tissue cells using staining. IHC is not considered a primary indicator
of mesothelioma, but aids in determining the histological type of mesothelioma
*If any diagnostic procedures indicate that there may be mesothelioma your
doctor will order a biopsy, which is a sample of tissues. The tissues are
then examined in a lab and this will confirm or contradict a mesothelioma
*If you have any questions about diagnostic tests, call us
at 1-800-301-1845 to receive a free copy of 101 Facts
About Mesothelioma by Ann Kaplan, M.D. or fill
out the form.
*For more information, request the FREE book, 101 FACTS ABOUT MESOTHELIOMA.