A doctor has several tools they can use to diagnose pleural mesothelioma in a patient who presents with signs and symptoms of this rare cancer. They will conduct a physical examination and order diagnostic imaging scans, which may then lead to a biopsy or additional diagnostic tests.
Signs and Symptoms of Pleural Mesothelioma
Signs and symptoms of pleural mesothelioma include chest pain, painful coughing, shortness of breath, unexplained weight loss, and unusual lumps of tissue under the skin on the chest. Mesothelioma is a rare type of cancer, and often, many of these signs and symptoms may relate to other medical conditions. However, if you exhibit any signs or symptoms of mesothelioma, you should seek immediate attention to allow a medical professional to determine the next steps for your health.
How Pleural Mesothelioma Is Diagnosed
After a patient comes to a doctor regarding their signs and symptoms that may indicate the development of pleural mesothelioma, a doctor will likely follow these steps.
Although a doctor will likely perform a physical examination, they cannot definitively diagnose pleural mesothelioma through this exam alone. Depending on the facts and circumstances, the doctor will probably order a chest X-ray, a CT scan of the chest or abdomen, an MRI of those same areas, or even a positron emission tomography (PET) scan. These tests will help determine if a patient does have pleural mesothelioma and the extent and severity of cancer in the patient’s body.
A biopsy is a medical procedure in which a surgeon extracts a small portion of tissue from the patient to examine it more carefully under a microscope. A biopsy is the only definitive way to diagnose pleural mesothelioma. According to the Mayo Clinic, biopsies related to mesothelioma may occur by inserting a needle through the skin or collecting a sample of possible cancerous tissue during surgery.
A biopsy will make a definitive diagnosis regarding whether a patient has pleural mesothelioma, as well as help determine the type of cells currently affected by cancer. These diagnostic tests will help a doctor make determinations regarding the severity and extent of the pleural mesothelioma.
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Part of the diagnosis of pleural mesothelioma will include assigning a specific stage to the cancer to indicate its severity. The American Cancer Society explains the four stages of cancer, four being the most severe, and the information doctors use to assign the cancer to a stage.
A lower cancer stage means that doctors likely caught pleural mesothelioma in a localized area and that the cancer has not metastasized (spread) to any other areas of the body. The cancer stage will also help a doctor determine the best medical treatments for your pleural mesothelioma.
Treatment of Pleural Mesothelioma
The type of treatment given to a patient suffering from pleural mesothelioma will largely depend on the severity of the cancer and the patient’s overall health. Pleural mesothelioma tends to develop rapidly and aggressively, and because its symptoms mirror those of other conditions, a pleural mesothelioma diagnosis typically occurs at a later stage. Doctors usually combine two or three treatment types for a patient.
Surgery can extract a great deal of the cancerous tissue, and if the pleural mesothelioma has not metastasized, it can significantly increase the patient’s survival rate. However, if the surgery does not completely remove all the cancer, it will at least help reduce the number of cancerous cells in a person’s body.
Additionally, surgery will decrease fluid building up while also removing tissue near the lungs, providing relief to the patient of the most severe symptoms of pleural mesothelioma. Surgery may also remove an entire lung to reduce the chance of the cancer spreading to other parts of the body.
Chemotherapy occurs typically after surgery as an additional way to kill and remove cancer cells. Chemicals travel throughout the body to shrink, slow, or destroy cancer cells that were not removed during the surgical process.
Radiation uses high-energy beams directed at certain spots of the body to kill cancerous cells. It is typically used after surgery to target any small cancerous areas that a doctor could not excise.
Other treatments available for patients diagnosed with pleural mesothelioma include immunotherapy, target therapy based on DNA testing, and holistic and natural therapies. Some alternative treatments that show promise include acupuncture, breath training, relaxation, and sitting near a fan to help alleviate shortness of breath. Also, researchers have started several clinical trials to test the efficacy of new mesothelioma treatments.
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Learn How a Mesothelioma Lawyer Can Help You
If you received a pleural mesothelioma diagnosis after years of asbestos exposure at your workplace, you may have a right to compensation. Consider contacting the legal team at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm to learn how a mesothelioma lawyer can fight for fair compensation on your behalf. Call us today at (800) 307-3113 to speak with a team member about your legal rights and discuss your next steps.