Because mesothelioma takes between 20 and 50 years to develop after exposure to asbestos has occurred, and the various symptoms of the disease are often associated with other illnesses, it can be difficult to diagnose. This is especially true in the early stages of mesothelioma – people experiencing symptoms attribute them to some other ailment and delay seeking treatment.
If you have been exposed to asbestos and are experiencing any symptoms associated with mesothelioma, you should be evaluated by a physician immediately. The Mesothelioma Help Center can help you locate a qualified doctor.
To determine whether you have mesothelioma, your doctor will first conduct a thorough physical exam and ask about possible asbestos exposure in the past. The exam will include a check for lumps or other unusual signs such as pleural effusion or breathing problems. If further tests are warranted, the next step will usually be an imaging study, either an x-ray, computerized tomography (CT) scan, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or PET scan. If abnormalities are present, further imaging tests may be done to determine whether mesothelioma or another disease is causing your signs and symptoms.
The most accurate way to determine whether you have mesothelioma is through a biopsy procedure, in which a small tissue or fluid sample is extracted from a particular location and then tested. Depending on the type of biopsy, a procedure can range from 80 to 98 percent conclusive. Because a biopsy is an invasive procedure, they are often only done if other tests have not already excluded mesothelioma as a possibility.
If you have already been diagnosed with mesothelioma, you can find out more about the Help Center’s array of medical, legal and support services for mesothelioma patients and their families.
If your initial exam is conducted by a family physician, a second opinion will usually be sought from a specialist to confirm a preliminary finding of mesothelioma.