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Diagnostic Testing & Imaging

Mesothelioma diagnostic testing can be a complicated and time-consuming process, but timely and accurate test results are essential for patients to receive the best mesothelioma cancer treatments and financial compensation from the companies that caused the grave illness.

Mesothelioma patients must have comprehensive imaging tests, biopsies and blood work completed for an exact diagnosis. Diagnostic testing is able to confirm a mesothelioma diagnosis and reveal important details about the disease, including disease stage, location and cell types.

An accurate mesothelioma diagnosis is also necessary for eligibility for compensation from sources that include asbestos bankruptcy trust funds and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).

The path to a mesothelioma diagnosis can start with simple tests, such as a physician’s examination and blood tests. Often, however, mesothelioma is misdiagnosed as lung cancer or other heart, lung or abdominal diseases because mesothelioma is a rare cancer. Experts advise anyone who has been exposed to asbestos at any point in their life seek a mesothelioma specialist who can perform advanced testing. The key to effective treatment is an accurate and fast diagnosis.

Typical Diagnostic Process

For many patients, the process for a diagnosis is as follows:

  • Patient detects symptoms of physical abnormalities, such as sudden weight loss, a persistent cough or shortness of breath. Primary care physicians often misdiagnose early symptoms as less serious diseases, such as pneumonia. Early diagnostic testing may only consist of a physician listening to lung sounds with a stethoscope (called auscultation) and a physical exam.
  • After persistent symptoms continue, patients may be given a chest X-ray and blood work. Some patients are referred to pulmonologists, or respiratory health doctors. If cancer is suspected, the patient will be referred to a cancer specialist, called an oncologist.
  • Oncologists perform tests to confirm and pinpoint a cancer diagnosis. Most general oncologists will only see one or two cases of mesothelioma through the span of a career, so they are ill equipped to make an accurate mesothelioma diagnosis. Pleural mesothelioma is often misdiagnosed as lung cancer, which can lead to ineffective treatment if the actual diagnosis should be mesothelioma.

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Testing for Mesothelioma Cancer

General oncologists may not consider mesothelioma as a possible diagnosis, so the patient or the patient’s family may need to suggest asbestos cancer due to occupational exposure. Oncologists who treat mesothelioma use a variety of tests to accurately identify the disease.

Asbestos cancer specialists perform a series of tests that can take several weeks to complete. During the tests, doctors must identify the cancer, classify the cell types involved and pinpoint the disease location, among other important steps. The following tests are typically performed in the quest for an accurate and complete diagnosis:


Biopsies

Of the many tests, biopsies are the single most important and accurate in a mesothelioma cancer diagnosis. For this test, tissue or fluid samples are removed and put under a microscope for review. Scientists look at cells and cell clusters to determine the type of cancer. There are several types of biopsies:

  • Needle biopsy – A thin hollow needle is used to extract cells for further examination. Needle biopsies are used to extract samples from tumors, lymph nodes and other tissue.
  • Endoscopic biopsy – Doctors place a thin hollow tube through a small incision in the body and place a tiny camera through the tube to take a closer look at the tissue and remove samples. The name of the procedure depends on the location on the body it is used.
  • Thoracoscopy – allows doctors to see inside the chest cavity and remove tissue samples. A thoracoscopy is considered the most accurate mesothelioma diagnostic biopsy.
  • Laparoscopy – is used to examine the tissue inside the abdominal area.
  • Mediastinoscopy – is used to see the area between the lungs.
  • Surgical biopsy – In some cases, endoscopic procedures may not produce adequate tissues samples for an accurate diagnosis. In those cases, more invasive surgical biopsies are used. Doctors make incisions in the chest (thoracotomy) or the abdomen (laparotomy) to remove large tissue samples or entire tumors.

Imaging Tests

Imaging tests allow doctors to see internal organs without invasive procedures. The tests use various forms of energy, such as radioactive particles and electromagnetic waves, to form images. Doctors rely on various imaging tests for an accurate mesothelioma diagnosis, including the following:

  • X-rays – If a patient complains of a persistent cough or shortness of breath, an x-ray is often the first imaging test ordered for a closer look at the lungs and chest cavity.
  • CT scan – (Cat scan or computed tomography scan) A CT scan takes multiple pictures around the body to form a detailed picture of internal structures.
  • MRI – (Magnetic resonance imaging) Using magnets and radiowaves, MRIs form highly detailed images of internal structures.
  • PET scan – (Positron emission tomography or nuclear medicine imaging) A PET scan uses radiation to show bodily functions on a cellular level.

Blood Tests

Blood tests detect biomarkers that indicate normal or abnormal processes in the body. However, blood tests have limited value in a mesothelioma diagnosis. The most common blood tests for mesothelioma include:

  • MESOMARK
  • SOMAmer

Why Is Getting Diagnosed So Important?

The main reason for an accurate mesothelioma cancer diagnosis is twofold: treatment and financial assistance. Since mesothelioma progresses slowly inside the body, the initial signs of the disease may be easy to miss. Patients are often diagnosed in the later stages of the disease, making them ineligible for aggressive or curative treatments. Patients who are diagnosed in the earlier stages (Stages I, II and sometimes III) may receive medical treatment that can extend the patient’s life expectancy.

Patients and their families who hope to access funding from asbestos bankruptcy trust funds, legal settlements, trial verdicts or VA claims must have a documented mesothelioma diagnosis from a certified physician. The various forms of financial assistance can be used to pay for medical bills and living expenses.


Assistance for Patients and Families

Mesothelioma patients and their family members have a right to financial assistance from asbestos bankruptcy trusts. Negligent asbestos companies established the trusts under court order as a way to ensure victims and their families had necessary financial resources.

About $32 billion is being held in trust for people injured by asbestos. We have helped scores of asbestos cancer victims get the financial assistance they are owed.

Compensation from an asbestos bankruptcy trust fund can begin immediately after a mesothelioma diagnosis, but the compensation amount depends on a number of factors. Contact us now for more information about qualifying for trust fund compensation.

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