How Doctors Diagnose Mesothelioma

If you read the Symptoms of Mesothelioma page, you realize just how hard (if not impossible) it is to diagnose this. Depending on where exactly the cancer is in your body cavity, you could have stomach aches, trouble breathing, fever, pain, weight loss, weight gain, you name it. You could be going from doctor to doctor for 10 years or more, never finding out what the actual problem is.

If it was really obvious that you had worked in an asbestos plant for 20 years, that might be a strong clue to figure it is mesothelioma. But what if you worked in an "office building" and had no idea that right over your head was 80 tons of asbestos? That is when it gets trickier.

First, there is no blood test that they can do and say "Yes you have it" or "No you are safe". The only way for them to know you have meosthelioma is to find a lump of it, take a biopsy of that lump (i.e. get a little part of it onto a slide), and test it. That is why it's so hard to find out about mesothelioma in its early stages.

Doctors can use CAT scans, which use XRays to see inside your body. They can also use MRI scans which use magnets to see inside your body. Both of these are rather expensive, but they are better than slicing you open to look around inside you! Really, though, the only way to know for sure if something is mesothelioma is to take a biopsy of it. Usually the doctors will do a MRI or CAT scan to look for something abnormal. If they see that abnormal item, they then take a biopsy of it to figure out what it might be.

If the biopsy comes back positive, then the next step is for the doctors to really examine that part of your body, to see just how large the cancer has grown. If you are lucky, it is still tiny and can be completely removed and destroyed. If you are less lucky, then the cancer might have spread to other areas, and now must be tracked down and eliminated from various parts of your body.

So the issue here is, let's say you worked in an asbestos plant when you were 18. Even if you had the money to then go and do a chest X-Ray and MRI and CAT scan, the tiny lump of mesothelioma might be so tiny that it couldn't even be seen. And it could grow very slowly for 20 or 30 years, before it suddenly burst into action. That is why it is so critical - if you know you've had exposure to asbestos at any point in your life - to pay careful attention to any little "warning signs" you might get. Be sure to check each one out, to make sure it really is not a beginning sign of mesothelioma.

Mesothelioma Main Page

NOTE: I am not a doctor - please always talk to a doctor if you are not feeling well or have medical questions!

Lisa Shea Homepage