Mesothelioma can be a difficult cancer to diagnose as the symptoms are similar to those of several other conditions. The Penn Mesothelioma and Pleural Program specialists have expertise in accurately evaluating and confirming a mesothelioma diagnosis to promptly initiate a treatment plan.
Being Diagnosed with Mesothelioma
The diagnostic process for cancer includes a variety of testing methods. To recieve an accurate and actionable diagnosis, tests should be performed at the time an initial symptom is observed. A complete medical history, thorough physical exam and identification of possible past exposure to asbestos is performed, followed by imaging and a possible biopsy. An accurate diagnosis is the key to providing patients with the high level of care that they require with mesothelioma.
Imaging Tests for Mesothelioma Diagnosis
Imaging tests use x-rays, radioactive particles, or magnetic fields to determine the cause of symptoms that may be signs of mesothelioma. These tests may also be used to indicate how far the cancer has spread, and to help determine if treatment has been effective. Some common types of scans include:
- X-Ray – a type of electromagnetic imaging used to diagnose different respiratory abnormalities, including bronchitis and pneumonia. Often a chest x-ray is the first imaging technique used in a mesothelioma diagnosis.
- MRI – magnetic resonance imaging uses a magnetic field and radio waves to create images of the body. The scan may also be used to identify the type and progression of the cancer.
- PET Scan – positron emission tomography is a type of nuclear medicine scanning technique that uses a radioactive substance to obtain a 3D image of an area to assess organs and tissues. The scan can help in determining if the cancer has spread (metastasized) beyond its point of origin.
- CT Scan – computed tomography uses x-rays to create images of an area from different angles to diagnose and monitor the extent of the disease.
Biopsy Tests for Mesothelioma Diagnosis
A biopsy is an important diagnostic procedure highly recommended by doctors for patients with signs and symptoms of mesothelioma that have a history of asbestos exposure. Biopsies are the most conclusive way to diagnose mesothelioma. These tests collect small fluid or tissue samples for examination under a microscope to determine if cancer cells are present
- Fine Needle Biopsy – fine needle aspiration is the least invasive type of biopsy available. A small amount of fluid or a small piece of tissue is removed by a fine needle inserted into your chest or abdomen.
- Surgical Biopsy – more invasive surgical biopsies are recommended if results from a needle biopsy are inconclusive or if a needle biopsy is not recommended for medical reasons.
Different types of biopsy procedures that can be used to confirm a diagnosis of mesothelioma include:
- Broncoscopy – a long, thin tube that is connected to a video camera is inserted through the nose or mouth into the trachea and lungs to obtain a sample of tissue for testing.
- Laparoscopy – surgeons use a long, thin tube connected to a video camera to examine the abdominal cavity and to obtain a small tissue sample through a very small incision in the abdomen.
- Laparotomy – surgery to open the abdomen allowing a surgeon to check for signs of disease and obtain a sample of tissue for testing.
- Mediastinoscopy – a procedure used to take tissue samples of the structures in the area between the lungs (mediastinum) to determine if the cancer has spread.
- Thoracoscopy – surgeons insert a long, thin tube connected to a video camera to examine the thoracic cavity and to obtain a small tissue sample through a very small incision in the chest.
- Thoracotomy – a surgery to open the chest between the ribs to check for signs of disease and obtain a sample of tissue for testing.
Contact Penn Medicine Today
Our Nurse/Patient navigator can assist you and your loved ones with questions about mesothelioma and pleural diseases; as well as scheduling appointments with our specialists. Contact us today to find out more about diagnosis and treatment options. Please call 215-662-9697.