Diagnosing mesothelioma can often be very difficult, because the symptoms are known to be similar to those of a number of other cancerous conditions and many practioners are still unfamiliar with the symptoms that are also typically associated with any number of common diseases. To diagnose mesothelioma is a difficult one because of the latency between contraction and symptoms showing up. When it is diagnosed, it is not usually until decades later when the mesothelioma is in its advanced stages, and then little can be done for the patient.
The diagnosis often begins with a review of the patient's medical history and if there was any occupational exposure to asbestos materials then this may increase clinical suspicion for this disease. Along with the patients history, a complete physical examination, including chest x-rays, and lung function tests are usually given. To support the evidence of mesothelioma, a CT (Computed Tomography) scan or MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) may usually be performed. If any one of these tests provide evidences of mesothelioma, then a biopsy will be necessary to confirm the diagnosis.
If a large amount of fluid is present in the lungs or around the heart, abnormal cells may be detected by cytology after the fluid is aspirated using a syringe to collect a small example of the fluid for examination. This procedure is called fine-needle aspiration and is sometimes also used to remove the fluid to provide the patient with some relief. While absence of malignant cells on cytology does not completely exclude mesothelioma, it makes it much more unlikely, especially if an alternative diagnosis can be made (e.g. tuberculosis, heart failure).
If cytology is positive or a plaque is regarded as suspicious, a biopsy is needed to confirm a diagnosis of mesothelioma. A doctor removes a sample of tissue for examination under a microscope by a histopathologist. A biopsy may be done in different ways, depending on where the abnormal area is located. If the cancer is in the chest, the doctor may perform a thoracoscopy. In this procedure, the doctor makes a small incision through the chest wall and puts a thin, lighted tube called a thoracoscope into the chest between two ribs.
If the cancer is in the abdomen, the doctor may perform a laparoscopy. To obtain tissue for examination, the doctor makes a small opening in the abdomen and inserts a special instrument into the abdominal cavity. If these procedures do not yield enough tissue, more extensive diagnostic surgery may be necessary.
Being diagnosed with mestholioma like most diseases can be a difficult experience to cope with since it is potentially a life-ending disease. It is common to be in shock or even numb when hearing the diagnosis. The first step after being inform of the diagnosis of mesothelioma is to accept the news as this will help you better deal with life easier and cope with whatever is yet to come. It is important to move ahead because it will help your friends and family deal with it as well.
Each person deals with the news differently and can experience a variety of emotions such as shock, anxiety, depression and anger. It may also be necessary to see counseling as well as a doctor after being diagnosed with mesothelioma.