Monday, 25 October 2010

Mesothelioma Diagnosis

How do medical professionals diagnose mesothelioma?
If you believe that you may have mesothelioma, a qualified medical professional will use a variety of diagnostic tests and methods to confirm the presence of the disease.

Medical history review and exam
The first step that mesothelioma doctors will take in evaluating an asbestos related disease is to obtain a full medical history to determine the level and severity of mesothelioma risk factors and presenting mesothelioma symptoms. This interview will look consider among other things, where asbestos exposure occurred, the length of exposure and the amount of asbestos that you were exposed to.

In addition, he/she will perform a medical exam to look for signs and symptoms of various types of mesothelioma. For example, if pleural mesothelioma is suspected the doctor will look for fluid in the chest, peritoneal mesothelioma often shows fluid in the abdomen and pericardial mesothelioma presents with fluid in the area of the heart.

Diagnostic imaging tests
Chest x-rays are used to identify abnormalities in the lungs including unusual thickening, mineral deposits and fluid in the chest area. If these conditions are present then it may be evidence that mesothelioma has developed.

Diagnostic image tests like x-rays, CT scans and MRI's are useful in determining more information about the cancer including how far it is progressed. Each method provides another piece of information to your doctor to assist in making an accurate diagnosis. CT scans are capable of providing images of the same location from many different angles. MRI technology uses magnetic fields rather than x-ray to provide additional views.

Testing fluid and tissue samples
If fluid build-up in the chest, abdomen or heart area is present, your doctor may want to obtain a sample. To accomplish this he/she will use a long needle to obtain fluid from the target area. The fluid will then be sent to the lab for analysis.

A bronchoscopy procedure may be recommended for patients who are suspected of having pleural mesothelioma. For this medical test, a soft tube illuminates the trachea and bronchi to determine if any masses are present in the airways. If deemed necessary, the technician my take sample of tissue that appears to be abnormal for further testing.

If lymph node involvement is suspected which is common with asbestos lung cancer, patients may also undergo a mediastinoscopy. This procedure is similar to a bronchoscopy in that a soft tube enters the body under the chest bone and illuminates the chest area. In this way, the surgeon can examine lymph nodes for abnormalities, check to see how far disease may have progressed and when necessary help diagnose lung cancer vs. mesothelioma.

Diagnosing mesothelioma is never easy. Fluid build up alone in the chest, belly or heart regions is not enough to confirm a diagnosis. Tissue samples obtained from biopsy procedures are also difficult to discern because mesothelioma cancer cells often resemble other types of cancer. For this reason, specialized laboratory procedures are often employed to identify certain chemicals that are known to exist with mesothelioma and high powered laboratory equipment is used to examine the smallest details of cancer cells to confirm that mesothelioma is present.

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