Mesothelioma cancer is a disease that is particularly difficult to diagnose. Due to its latent onset and nonspecific symptoms, a person suffering from mesothelioma might go decades before a proper diagnosis and mesothelioma treatment is sought out. Dealing with mesothelioma cancer in its latter stages makes fighting the cancer that much more difficult. Below is a list of different clinical procedures your physician might perform in diagnosing the disease.

So, how is mesothelioma diagnosed? As a first step, doctors will often arrange for image testing.

  • Chest tomograms: A series of x-ray pictures of the chest taken in the frontal or lateral view producing a three-dimensional image. Tomograms have the ability to show the chest region at various depths and further detect small masses not seen on regular film.
  • Pulmonary angiography: Dye is injected into a blood vessel and x-rays are taken of the arteries or veins in the lung.
  • Standard CT, CAT, or MRI scans: Magnetic and computerized reconstruction of x-ray images. Such tests are used to detect abnormalities in x-ray absorption in the abdomen, chest, or head. If a patient’s tissues do in fact show an abnormal capacity for absorbing the x-rays, doctors will often proceed by performing a biopsy.

More aggressive diagnosis follows in the form of a mesothelioma biopsy. A biopsy is where living tissue is removed from the body and viewed under a microscope. There are several methods of tissue biopsy that are used to test for mesothelioma cancer, including:

  • Open biopsy: The most common and preferred method is open biopsy. Open biopsy is considered the most accurate and conclusive in making a diagnosis of mesothelioma cancer, because it allows for the collection of bigger tissue samples.
  • Thoracoscopy and laparoscopy: Entails inserting a small camera to look at and probe into the affected area.
  • Needle biopsy: Doctors may also choose to collect tissue samples by inserting a hollow needle into a patient’s skin and removing cells this way.

 Mesothelioma Diagnosis Tool: CT Scan

A computed tomography (CT) scan is one of the most helpful forms of imaging in the diagnosis of mesothelioma. When an individual is suspected of having mesothelioma (the cancer of an internal tissue lining in the chest), he or she will likely undergo many types of medical imaging to help determine the identity, location, and status of the disease.

Along with procedures such as MRI (magnetic resonance imaging), PET (positron emission tomography), and x-rays, a CT scan will probably be arranged at least once for a patient who has or may have mesothelioma. The purposes of all these tests are:

  1. To diagnose and “stage” the cancer (that is, to determine how far along it is)
  2. To obtain a mesothelioma prognosis (an estimate of how the cancer can be expected to progress)
  3. To find out whether a treatment that has been administered is effective against the cancer

How a Mesothelioma CT Scan Works

A Mesothelioma CT scan works on principles similar to those of x-rays, but a series of separate images are taken during the procedure. In fact, so many images are taken from a wide variety of angles that they can form a three dimensional image of a site inside the body. A CT scan can actually differentiate bone, fluid, tissue, and fat. It’s a terrific advance in medical imaging, and it’s widely available in the U.S.

A computer puts the images together (i.e., computed tomography). This procedure is also sometimes called a “CAT” scan, which stands for “computed axial tomography.” Before the CT scan is done, the patient may be given an injection of a special contrast dye that helps provide a better and more detailed image. In some cases, a PET scan can be performed at the same time as the CT scan.

The more you know about diagnostic tools for mesothelioma, the sooner this disease can be identified or ruled out in your case or in that of your loved one. If you may have experienced asbestos exposure and contracted an asbestos-related disease such as mesothelioma, talk to an attorney about your legal rights. You may be eligible for financial compensation from the asbestos manufacturer.

Mesothelioma Diagnosis Tool: MRI Scan

Another way of diagnosing mesothelioma is through the use of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Using a combination of magnetic fields and radio waves, an MRI can produce images similar to X-Ray images but much more detailed and clear. Additionally, a mesothelioma X-Ray can only produce two-dimensional images, while an MRI can create 3-dimensional images.

How Mesothelioma MRI Works

When receiving an MRI scan, the patient’s body is placed into a machine that surrounds the part of the body being scanned. The machine then emits a combination of electromagnetic waves at a radio frequency that causes certain cells within the patient’s body to first absorb, and then release the electromagnetic energy. The energy released by the body’s cells create radio frequencies that are scanned by the MRI machine and turned into a relatively clear three-dimensional image of the interior of the patient’s body.

  • The body is mainly composed of water molecules, which each contain two hydrogen nuclei or protons. When a person goes inside the powerful magnetic field of the scanner, these protons align with the direction of the field.
  • A second radio frequency electromagnetic field is then briefly turned on causing the protons to absorb some of its energy.
  • This radio frequency field is turned off and the protons begin to release this energy at a radio frequency which can be detected by the scanner.
  • The position of protons in the body can be determined by applying additional magnetic fields during the scan which allows an image of the body to be built up.

Diseased tissue, such as mesothelioma tumors, can be detected because different tissues inside the patient’s body absorb and release energy at different rates. By changing the parameters on the scanner, this effect is used to create contrast between different types of body tissue.

Because MRI images can differentiate between healthy tissue and tumors, a doctor examining the image can acquire crucial information such as how much a tumor has spread before attempting to surgically remove the malignant tissue.

Mesothelioma & MRI Safety Warnings:

MRI scans are painless. They are also typically safer than X-Ray and CT scans because MRI uses non-ionizing radiation as opposed to ionizing radiation, which can increase the risk of malignancy.

On the other hand, a patient who has a pacemaker should never receive an MRI scan because the fields that emanate from the MRI machine can interfere with the proper function of the pacemaker.

Before receiving an MRI for mesothelioma cancer, consult with your doctor to ensure that any health conditions you might have wouldn’t exclude you from safely receiving the scan.

Mesothelioma Diagnosis Tool: X-Rays

A patient who is suspected of having a form of the deadly cancer mesothelioma will probably undergo x-ray imaging as a diagnostic test. X-rays are able to detect many irregularities in soft body tissues, such as the lungs and the mesothelium (the soft tissue lining in the chest cavity where mesothelioma usually strikes). A chest x-ray is a common test for diagnosing mesothelioma, pneumonia, and lung cancer.

X-ray Testing for Mesothelioma

A chest x-ray may be able to identify the location of a mesothelioma tumor, and it may show whether the tumor has spread. However, the tumor that a chest x-ray is capable of identifying is large enough that it may be past the early phase of development, and thus x-rays aren’t able to diagnose mesothelioma in its earliest stages.

X-Ray Treatment for Mesothelioma

X-rays can also be used to treat mesothelioma. In fact, the treatment modality known as “mesothelioma radiation therapy” is actually a very high dose of x-rays directly targeting the cancer cells in the body. Radiation therapy is used to kill individual cancer cells, and although it’s a very effective treatment for cancer, it also carries risks. The radiation/x-ray treatment can kill cancer cells, but it can also be dangerous to healthy cells.

X-Rays in Combination with Other Treatments for Mesothelioma

X-ray/radiation treatment can also be combined with chemo- (drug) therapy, with surgery, or with both. In many cases, a mesothelioma patient will receive all three treatments – surgery to cut away most of the tumor tissue and x-ray and chemotherapy to kill off the rest of the cancer that could not be surgically removed. The particular treatment regimen that a patient receives depends in part on his or her:

  • general health
  • stage of mesothelioma, and
  • chances of a successful recovery

If you would like to speak with an experienced asbestos attorney about treatments for mesothelioma and other asbestos-caused diseases, please contact us today. A skilled lawyer for mesothelioma victims will help direct you to the best resources for treatment and tell you about your legal rights regarding mesothelioma.

If you have seen a doctor that knows how to diagnose mesothelioma and are already aware of having developed an asbestos cancer, contact a mesothelioma cancer center immediately for prompt diagnosis and treatment of the disease.

Mesothelioma Cancer Diagnosis (English) / Diagnosis del Mesotelioma Cancer (Spanish)