Mesothelioma cancer is a rare type of cancer that builds up in the protective lining, the mesothelium, that covers many organs in our body. Generally speaking the cause behind is exposure to asbestos. Mesothelioma lung cancer is most common, and develops in the internal chest wall and outer lining of the lungs.
Several environmental and occupational exposures have been found to be the leading causes behind the cancer of mesothelioma. For instance, working with asbestos around or near naturally occurring asbestos can lead to this cancer. Even family members living with asbestos workers are at a risk of developing mesothelioma cancer.
Mesothelioma symptoms do not appear until 20 to 50 years following the contact with asbestos. The patient will experience shortness of breath, cough, and pain in his chest due to a buildup of fluid in the pleural space. Weight loss and fatigue are also common.
It often gets difficult to diagnose mesothelioma cancer as mesothelioma symptoms are quite similar to many other conditions. To start with, along with a confirmation of tissue biopsy, careful evaluation of clinical and radiological findings is important to diagnose Mesothelioma. Patient’s medical history as well as his association with asbestos is looked into. A complete physical examination follows which includes the following:
X-ray: A chest x-ray can disclose the amount of fluid build-up in either or both the lungs. Scarring due to asbestosis may also be obseved.
Computed Tomography (CT) : Computed Tomography (CT) scans help define the pleural effusion, pleural calcification as well as pleural thickening. These scans are valuable in directing fine needle aspiration of pleural masses for diagnosing tissues.
Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) : MRI scans are used to find out the amount of tumor prior to starting hard line treatment. As they offer images in multiple planes, they identify the mesothelioma cancer better and are more accurate.
CT/PET : For patients in need of aggressive treatment like surgery, radiation or chemotherapy, CT/PET imaging has become the more accurate imaging technique and help identifies the best treatment alternative for the patient.
Biopsy : If any of these first round tests lead to any suspicions for mesothelioma, then a biopsy becomes important to confirm this diagnosis. Under this procedure, the doctor removes a tissue sample to be examined under a microscope by a pathologist. Depending on where the abnormal area is placed, the biopsy is done in different ways.
A couple of other procedures used by the physicians and specialist are Video-Assisted Thoracoscopic Surgery (VATS), Thoracoscopy and Peritoneoscopy.