Mesothelioma Diagnostic Tests
If your doctor suspects an asbestos-related disease such as mesothelioma, the next step in the diagnostic process includes testing to confirm the presence of mesothelioma, determine the location, size and type of cancer involved, and determine whether the asbestos cancer has spread to other parts of the body. This will often involve imaging tests such as:
Chest X-ray: This is the most commonly used imaging test for the diagnosis of mesothelioma. Almost all diagnoses will involve an X-ray, but a more sophisticated test may follow.
CT Scan: This is an X-ray-like procedure in which several X-ray pictures are taken and combined with a computer to produce a detailed image of body tissues. If you undergo a CT scan, you may be given an intravenous injection of dye that helps produce more detailed images.
PET Scan: A glucose solution is administered through intravenous injection and a scanner is used to spot deposits of cancer cells. Malignant cells take up and use sugars more quickly than normal cells, so they can be easily distinguished using this procedure.
MRI Scan: A combination of radio waves and a strong magnetic field is used to create detailed three-dimensional images that can be carefully examined by a radiologist.
Fluid and Tissue Tests
These tests, also known as biopsy tests, involve collecting small samples of fluid or tissue and checking them for the presence of cancer cells. Such tests include:
Fine Needle Aspiration: Mesothelioma cancers cause fluid to build up in affected locations, such as in the pleural membrane. During a fine needle aspiration, a doctor will remove a fluid sample using a very long, thin and hollow needle.
Thoracoscopy: Thoracoscopy is used in cases where pleural or pericardial mesothelioma is suspected. During this procedure, a very small incision is made in the chest wall and a sample of tissue is removed.
Bronchoscopy and Laparoscopy: These procedures are similar to the thoracoscopy, but are performed on different parts of the body. The bronchoscopy is used to view the trachea and airway, while the laparoscopy is used to remove samples of peritoneal tissue.
Mediastinoscopy: This procedure is used to view lymph nodes in the chest and neck, to determine if cancer has spread from its point of origin.
The oncologist (a cancer doctor), who should be well-versed in treating mesothelioma, will help determine the best options for treatment. Patients should also educate themselves about mesothelioma and treatment options and reach out to available resources to make coping with a diagnosis easier. Our patient and family advocates are available to speak with patients and family members to answer questions and provide additional information and guidance.