Usually an individual will seek medical advice from his family doctor complaining of certain symptoms such as persistent coughing, difficulty in breathing, pain in the chest/abdomen or a combination of these symptoms. Diagnosing mesothelioma is not an easy process. The symptoms of the disease are similar to other common alignments such as flu, bronchitis and heart disease, and so mesothelioma is frequently mistaken for something else. It is important that the patient gives a complete medical and occupational history. Any exposure or possible exposure to asbestos should be clearly stated by the patient. Sometimes patients may be reluctant to mention any exposure to asbestos since this may have been only for a short time and many years in the past, and so the patient may feel that it is irrelevant to mention. However such exposure may also be enough for the development of mesothelioma. Any information regarding any exposure to asbestos will not only help the doctor to diagnose the disease but will also eliminate the need to perform unnecessary tests which may be both costly and uncomfortable.
At the clinic the physician, will ask you about the symptoms, the timing of occurrences of the symptoms and what makes them better or worse. He/she may ask if you suffer from other symptoms like fever, pain or weight loss. The physician will feel the areas where there is the pain. The physician will listen to the chest of the patient in order to determine if there is any sign of accumulation of fluids. Pleural effusion (fluid in the chest cavity) occurs in patients with pleural mesothelioma. Ascites (fluid in the abdominal cavity) occurs in patients with peritoneal mesothelioma. Pericardial effusion (fluid in the pericardium) occurs in patients with pericardial mesothelioma. This accumulation of fluids in different areas might be detected during the physical examination. Otherwise they may be detected by using various tests.
Various imaging tests can be used to diagnose mesothelioma cancer. It is important that mesothelioma can is diagnosed at an early stage so prompt treatment can be started as early as possible. Imaging tests to be performed include X-Ray, CT scan (Computer Tomography), MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) and PET scan (Positron Emission Tomography Scan)
To reach a definitive conclusion about the diagnosis usually a biopsy is performed. This is a surgical procedure where a sample of tissue or fluid is obtained from the affected area and it is then examined in the laboratory in order to determine if the individual has mesothelioma or otherwise. There are various procedures that can be used to obtain a sample of tissue or fluid as Needle Biopsy, Thoroscopy, Laparoscopy, Thoracotomy, Laparotomy, VATS (Video-Assisted Thoracoscopic Surgery), Mediastinoscopy, Peritoneoscopy and Bronchoscopy. After the sample is obtained from the affected area it is then examined by a pathologist in a laboratory. Unfortunately mesothelioma may be still difficult to diagnose since mesothelioma cells may be very similar to other cells of other type of cancers. New methods are however improving the diagnosis process.
If mesothelioma is diagnosed it is important to determine the mesothelioma cell types and the spread of the disease since this will determine the type of treatment you will have.