Simmons Mesothelioma Foundation

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Mesothelioma Diagnosis

A mesothelioma diagnosis starts with identification of the symptoms associated with the different forms of the disease. Then, a doctor will review medical history, paying special attention to circumstances where an individual may have been exposed to asbestos. Next, is a complete physical examination with x-rays and possibly a CT scan or MRI. Finally, a biopsy confirms a diagnosis. This can take the form of a fine-needle aspiration, thoracoscopy or laparoscopy. Afterwards, more tests are given to determine staging, or the level of disease severity on a scale of I-IV.

Stages of mesothelioma

I. localized, limited to one part of the body
II. spread to another nearby membrane or organ
III. spread to several other nearby membranes or organs, possibly lymph nodes
IV. advanced, metastasized cancer that spreads to parts of the body farther away from the original site

Other testing

Imaging tests include (explained in greater detail on the American Cancer Society website):

  • Chest x-rays
  • CT (computed tomography) scans
  • PET (positron emission tomography) scans
  • MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scans
  • Blood tests
  • Fluid tests and tissue samples
    - Thoracentesis (chest cavity fluid)
    - Paracentesis (abdominal fluid)
    - Pericardiocentesis (heart sac fluid)
  • Needle biopsies
  • Thoracoscopy/laparoscopy/mediastinoscopy
  • Surgical biopsy
  • Bronchoscopic biopsy
  • Testing lab samples
    - Immunohistochemistry
    - DNA microarray analysis
    - Electron microscopy
  • Pulmonary function tests (PFTs)

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