Diagnosis is the first step to any mesothelioma journey, and it is often the one that is the most frustrating. We are all familiar with the feeling of knowing that something is wrong and just wanting an answer. That is exactly what happens to most mesothelioma patients. They start to experience symptoms that – at first – they think are no big deal. Maybe it’s a cold, or the flu, or a little bit of indigestion. Maybe they take an over-the-counter remedy or make an appointment with the doctor who writes a prescription. It’s only when those first steps prove to be ineffective and the symptoms continue to get worse that everybody starts to pay closer attention to their cough, or their pain, or their rapid weight loss. The doctor starts asking a lot more questions and starts ordering tests that eventually deliver the information that is needed, and the conclusion that what they had thought was pneumonia or gastritis is really the deadly form of cancer known as malignant mesothelioma.
Mesothelioma is a rare and fatal form of cancer that strikes those who have been exposed to asbestos. The disease does not begin to show its symptoms until decades after that exposure takes place, and that can be a contributing factor to the difficulty in making a fast diagnosis – many patients forget that they have ever worked with asbestos, or may not even realize that they were exposed. Those who are aware often neglect to inform their physicians of their history of exposure. The longer it takes to diagnose mesothelioma, the more time the disease has to advance in the body. Fortunately, physicians have a wide array of diagnostic tools and methods that they can use to assist them in the process.
People who have been diagnosed with mesothelioma or any other asbestos-related disease may be eligible to file a mesothelioma lawsuit or seek compensation from the $30 billion asbestos bankruptcy trusts. If you have mesothelioma and would like to receive a free Financial Compensation Packet or to speak to an attorney, contact us today.
What Are My Chances of Being Diagnosed with Mesothelioma?
It is impossible to predict who will be diagnosed with mesothelioma. Anybody who has ever been exposed to asbestos is at risk, but statistics indicate that eight out of ten of those diagnosed with the disease are men who worked with the product over the course of their careers. The careers that have proven to be most hazardous in terms of asbestos exposure include manufacturing, shipbuilding, paper mills, oil refineries, steel plants, the automotive industry, electricians, construction, and all branches of the military (but especially the Navy). Asbestos was heavily used in each of these settings during the 20th century because of its characteristic strength and heat and flame resistance. Even though asbestos use has been severely curtailed, it is still present in homes and buildings built before the 1980s, as well as in infrastructure such as concrete pipes.
Women’s Risk of Mesothelioma
Though women are statistically less likely to be diagnosed with mesothelioma because they did not work in settings where asbestos was used, there have been many instances of women being diagnosed as a result of second-hand exposure or because their work environment had asbestos hidden within its walls. Teachers and hospital workers have been exposed to asbestos floor and ceiling tiles as well as asbestos insulation, which was also widely used in home construction during the first half of the 20th century, Additionally, there has been substantial evidence that the men who worked in asbestos-contaminated environments unwittingly carried the carcinogenic material home on their clothing, hair and skin. Children who played with their fathers or climbed on their laps to be cuddled and read to were breathing in the toxic dust, and so were wives who laundered their clothing. Many of those family members have been diagnosed with mesothelioma decades later.
The Difficulties of Diagnosing Mesothelioma
There are many factors that work against mesothelioma being diagnosed quickly. In addition to the fact that the disease can be mistaken for other, more benign conditions, as well as the fact that so many years generally pass between asbestos exposure and symptoms appearing, there is also the fact that mesothelioma is an extremely rare condition, and one that many physicians never encounter over the course of their career. There are only about 3,500 cases diagnosed each year, so it takes a particularly astute physician to consider the disease in their differential diagnosis unless they are already aware that their patient has been exposed to asbestos during their earlier years. Mesothelioma is particularly difficult to diagnose in young people. Only about ten percent of mesothelioma patients are diagnosed when they are under the age of 39, and the diagnosis is not generally made until almost all other forms of cancer have been eliminated.
Diagnostic Tests for Mesothelioma
The tests that are used to diagnose or confirm mesothelioma consist of both imaging studies and laboratory studies. They include:
- CT Scans of the Chest – A CT scan, or Computed Tomography, is a state-of-the-art imaging study that takes a series of X-ray images from various angles. It employs the use of computer processing to create cross-sectional views of the interior of the body and is able to show the interior of bones, blood vessels and soft tissues. The detail that is provided by a CT scan is extremely helpful in detecting pneumonia, fluids, and tumors.
- X-Ray – An X-ray is the simplest and most conventional type of imaging study. It uses small doses of radiation to take individual images of the region of the body and enables a radiologist to view shadows that provide them with information about the condition of the bones, organs and tissues.
- PET Scan – Positive Emission Tomography is an imaging test that uses a radioactive dye that is absorbed by the body’s organs and tissues. A scanner then examines the organs to determine how the body is functioning and to detect the presence of any tumors.
- Thoracoscopy, Laparoscopy and Mediastinoscopy – Each of these tests employ small cameras that are inserted into the body to provide physicians with the ability to see abnormalities.
- Open Lung Biopsy – When an open lung biopsy is performed, the physician will make a small incision in the chest, then insert a tool in order to remove a small sample of tissue from the lung. This tissue will then be examined in the laboratory to determine whether there is any infection or cancer present. This is an invasive procedure that involves having a chest tube left in the lungs for a period of time in order to prevent the lungs from collapsing.
- Pleural Biopsy – A pleural biopsy is another invasive issue that is designed to provide tissue for laboratory analysis. Rather than removing lung tissue, in a pleural biopsy tissue is removed from the pleural cavity where the lungs are located. The procedure is more invasive, and variety of tissue samples are usually taken in order.
- Thoracentesis – This test inserts a needle into the back in order to allow a sample of pleural fluid to be removed from the chest cavity for analysis. A cytology study is then done of the pleural fluid to determine whether mesothelioma cancer cells are present.
Each of these studies provides a slightly different bit of information that can lead to a confirmed diagnosis of mesothelioma. The earlier that mesothelioma is diagnosed, the more options are available for effective treatment, so it is strongly advised that if you have ever been exposed to asbestos you make sure that your physician has included that information in your medical history. That way, at the earliest sign of any mesothelioma symptoms, the appropriate diagnostic tests can be ordered. In addition to the tests above, there are a number of tests that can be administered on patients prior to any symptoms arising. These include:
- Blood Tests and Biomarker Tests – these check for the presence of particular signs within the blood that can be an indicator of the presence of mesothelioma. To date, there have been several mesothelioma biomarkers identified, including Fibulin 3, a protein that has been found to be present in higher levels in patients who have mesothelioma. Fibulin 3 is removed from the lungs rather than through a blood test.
- Mesomark Test – this test, which was recently approved by the Food and Drug Administration for the detection nof malignant mesothelioma, is done in the laboratory. It analyzes the blood to determine the levels of SMRP, which are soluble mesothelin related peptides. The higher the amount, the greater the likelihood that there is mesothelioma present in the pleural cavity.
Getting the Right Diagnosis
Because mesothelioma is so rare, it is not at all unusual for physicians to head down the wrong path and assume that you are suffering from a better-known, more common illness. This type of misdiagnosis delays the highly specific treatment protocol that has proven most effective in treating mesothelioma. If you believe that you are not being treated for the correct illness or would like a second opinion, seek out a doctor who specializes in asbestos-related diseases. They will be the best equipped to recognize your symptoms and order the appropriate tests and treatments for your specific situation.
Legal Help is Available
Getting an accurate diagnosis of your condition is a top priority, and an essential step to getting the treatment that you need for your mesothelioma. If you have been diagnosed with an asbestos-related disease, you may also be eligible for compensation for your medical expenses, including the costs of testing, lost wages and more. Call us today at 1-800-706-5606 to set up a free consultation or get a free Financial Compensation Packet sent to you today.