If you present with symptoms that could be mesothelioma, particularly if you have a history of asbestos exposure, your doctor will want to conduct tests. These tests can confirm or rule out mesothelioma, lung cancer, and other types of asbestos-related illnesses.
Your doctor will likely listen to your chest and conduct a physical exam. Then, they will order medical imaging to take a look at what is happening in and around your lungs. This may include a chest X-ray and computerized tomography (CT) scan. If they find fluid in your chest cavity, signs of nodules on the outside of your lungs, or a possible tumor in your lungs, they will most likely want to do a biopsy to confirm your diagnosis.
A Biopsy Is Necessary to Get an Accurate Mesothelioma Diagnosis
How is mesothelioma diagnosed? While medical imaging can give the doctor a better idea about whether you may have a proliferation of diffuse cells growing on the pleural lining of your chest cavity and lungs indicating mesothelioma, they will need to conduct a biopsy. This medical procedure will remove some of the cells to test for this type of cancer.
Because mesothelioma is generally diagnosed at an advanced stage, it is often confused for asbestos-related lung cancers that require a different treatment plan. According to the Mayo Clinic, there are several ways in which a surgeon can remove tissue to test for mesothelioma cells. Options include:
- Removing fluid or tissue using a long needle inserted through the skin, possibly with help from computerized tomography (CT) guidance
- Using a tube and camera inserted through a small incision in the chest
- Collecting a sample during open surgery
Once the doctor has the sample, it is sent to the laboratory where trained technicians will view it under a microscope to determine if it is mesothelioma. This will confirm your diagnosis.
More Tests May Occur to Stage Your Cancer and Learn More About Its Spread
Determining the severity of your cancer and seeing if it has spread beyond the initial area where it developed is called staging your mesothelioma. This often requires additional procedures and testing. It is vital to understand the areas of your body affected by malignant mesothelioma to put the best treatment plan possible in place and to make educated decisions about your care.
Additional procedures and tests required for staging may include:
- Removing local lymph nodes to test for signs of the disease
- Additional CT scans of the chest and abdomen
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans
- Positron emission tomography (PET) scans
Once these tests are complete and your doctor has a better idea of how your mesothelioma is affecting your body, they will assign a stage to your cancer. Stages range from I to IV, with each stage having several sub-stages. The lower the stage, the more localized the cancerous cells.
While mesothelioma has a low overall five-year survival rate, those with stage one disease have a much better chance of living for several years with a higher quality of life than those diagnosed with mesothelioma when their cancer is already stage IV.
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A Mesothelioma Diagnosis May Allow You to Pursue an Award to Pay for Your Treatment and Other Damages
Almost all cases of mesothelioma occur because of asbestos exposure, often in the workplace. If you have a known exposure to asbestos fibers and now have a mesothelioma diagnosis, you may be able to join hundreds of thousands of others who already joined a mass tort and received a settlement or award to help pay for their treatment, care, pain and suffering, and other losses.
If you developed cancer or another serious medical condition as a result of asbestos exposure, your family should not have to pay for your treatment and other expenses. The asbestos companies that caused your exposure and profited from your work should be held responsible. This may be possible by filing a claim or a lawsuit.
At Pintas & Mullins Law Firm, our asbestos cancer attorneys know how to pursue a settlement or award in this type of case. If you reach out to us, you can receive:
- A free case review and initial consultation
- A better understanding of your rights and legal options
- A chance to ask questions and voice your concerns with an attorney who regularly handles these cases
Our lawyers do not shy away from tough cases. If we decide to work together, we will pursue an award on your behalf, and you will pay nothing up front. We will take our attorney’s fees from the settlement we recover for you. If we do not get an award for you and your family, we do not get paid.
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Malignant mesothelioma is diagnosed through imaging and biopsy testing. The Mayo Clinic explains that when you inform your doctor that you are experiencing symptoms of mesothelioma, they may first perform a physical exam to look for signs of the disease, such as lumps. They will likely listen to your breathing and heart as well.
A doctor will then order radiologic imaging, such as X-rays, CT scans, MRIs, or PET scans, to look for evidence of abnormal growths within the body. They may also do an echocardiogram, which is an ultrasound of the heart.
If your physician identifies a mass, they will biopsy it, or take a small sample of tissue, to test. A doctor can perform a biopsy either by inserting a needle through the patient’s skin or by taking a sample during surgery. Once they have a sample, they can conduct laboratory tests and identify the type of cells under a microscope. Once the tissue is identified as malignant mesothelioma, your physician can offer a certain diagnosis of this cancer.
Types of Malignant Mesothelioma
Malignant mesothelioma is a kind of cancer that is very aggressive and often fatal. It can lay dormant in a person’s body for decades. Once diagnosed, a victim of mesothelioma often only lives for one year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Mesothelioma gets its name from mesothelial cells, which line the inside of your chest and abdomen and the space around your heart. This lining is called the mesothelium.
According to the American Cancer Society (ACS), there are four types of malignant mesothelioma, named for where they begin in the body:
- Pleural mesothelioma affects the chest lining.
- Peritoneal mesothelioma affects the abdomen.
- Pericardial mesothelioma affects the covering around the heart.
- Mesothelioma of the tunica vaginalis affects the covering layer of the testicles.
Pleural and peritoneal mesothelioma are the most common types, while the other two are very rare.
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Symptoms of Malignant Mesothelioma
The ACS reports a variety of symptoms for mesothelioma, which differ depending on which type a person has. General symptoms include fatigue, weight loss, excessive sweating, fever, loss of appetite, and blood clots.
Common symptoms of pleural mesothelioma include:
- Chest and back pain
- Shortness of breath
- Swelling in the face and arms
- Difficulty swallowing
Common symptoms of peritoneal mesothelioma include:
- Abdominal pain
- Abdominal distention (swelling and fluid in the abdomen)
- Nausea and vomiting
However, all these symptoms can be caused by other conditions as well. If you experience any of these symptoms, you should visit your doctor and ask how malignant mesothelioma is diagnosed.
Medical Treatment of Malignant Mesothelioma
Unfortunately, malignant mesothelioma is most often fatal. However, several therapies have been successful, which doctors may use to try to help victims of mesothelioma. If caught early, it may be possible to cure this cancer, but treatment more often focuses on relieving the symptoms of mesothelioma to help keep patients comfortable.
A doctor could recommend surgery to remove cancerous growths or a buildup of fluid. They could also perform surgery to remove a lung or the tissue surrounding the lungs.
Chemotherapy can shrink or slow the growth of cancerous cells, and radiation therapy can kill cancerous cells. In some cases, doctors may also prescribe immunotherapy or targeted therapy to attack certain cancer cells.
There are also clinical trials available for mesothelioma victims, which are experimental treatments with unproven results.
Asbestos Exposure and Malignant Mesothelioma
Although there may be other risk factors, the only known cause of malignant mesothelioma is exposure to asbestos. When asbestos degrades, its fibers can enter the air, causing an inhalation risk for those nearby. Employees in the following industries have a high risk of asbestos exposure:
- The military
- Power plants
Asbestos was widely used in products for most of the 20th century because of its durability and heat resistance. Although it is a natural fiber derived from a mineral, people later discovered that inhaling asbestos fibers can cause malignant mesothelioma and other serious lung diseases.
The use of asbestos is now strictly regulated, but not altogether banned. If you or your loved one is a victim of mesothelioma, you could be eligible to receive compensation for your suffering. The employer, retailer, manufacturer, or another party responsible for your exposure to asbestos could be liable for the costs of your medical treatment, funeral expenses, pain and suffering, and other damages.
The team at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm may be able to help you recover compensation for your mesothelioma diagnosis through a personal injury lawsuit or a claim on an asbestos victims’ fund. Call (800) 307-3113 today for a no-cost, no-obligation consultation. We work on contingency, so you will never owe us anything unless we can earn a settlement for you.