Anyone who worked with asbestos, even just a minute amount, is a candidate for developing mesothelioma, asbestos lung cancer, or any other asbestos-related disease. Perhaps YOU are concerned that you might have the disease because of your prior exposure and maybe you’re already suffering from some of the most common symptoms of mesothelioma, including:
• Difficulty breathing
• Chest pain
• Weight loss
Maybe you’ve had that initial appointment with your general practitioner and now it’s time to take it one step further and undergo further testing to see if you have been stricken by an asbestos-induced disease or if you’re sick with something less serious. No doubt you’ll want to know what to expect as this time for diagnosis proceeds.
The Tools of Diagnosis
Doctors use a variety of tools to determine a definitive diagnosis of mesothelioma. They include:
• Chest x-ray – Testing for mesothelioma often starts with a fairly simple chest x-ray, which takes just minutes to perform and only a short time to read. The chest x-ray can detect basic changes in the lungs and perhaps identify the presence of fluid in the pleural space or the thickening of the pleura. It doesn’t, however, show a lot of detail, but if something unusual is detected on a chest x-ray, it generally indicates that you’ll need further imaging tests.
• CT Scan – The CT (or CAT) scan uses the same technology as x-rays to take cross-sectional pictures of the body. In reality, it takes hundreds of pictures as it rotates around the body, provided a very detailed look at the affected area. It’s often the next step after a conventional x-ray and can show the presence and location of any tumors as well as if the cancer has spread to any other parts of the body.
• MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) – MRIs provide similar details to those offered by the CT scan but these tests employ the use of radio waves and magnets rather than x-rays. They can show the location of the tumor and are often used to detect the spread of cancer. It takes longer to undergo an MRI than a CT scan.
• Biopsies – There are a number of different kinds of biopsies used to diagnosis mesothelioma. Doctors may choose to remove fluids for testing, including fluid that may have built up near the lungs, abdomen or heart. In other cases, a needle biopsy is appropriate. These take samples of any existing tumors to see if they are cancerous. Endoscopic biopsies are also often used to diagnosis mesothelioma. This procedure involves inserting a scope with a video camera or lens into the affected area to look at the tissue. Samples can also be taken at the same time and examined for cancer cells.
Mesothelioma X-rays, CT scans, and MRIs do not hurt when performed. Some people find it difficult to stay still during an MRI (which could take as much as an hour) and some feel claustrophobic during such tests, but technicians can offer sedatives to anyone concerned about such issues.
For most biopsies, patients are given a local anesthetic or may even be completely sedated, when necessary. Some tenderness may persist after the biopsy is complete.
Always complete the tests that your doctor orders, even if you’re unsure about your insurance coverage. They are necessary for a complete diagnosis. If you’re having problems paying, consider your options for compensation, including filing suit against those responsible for your asbestos exposure.