Diagnosis of mesothelioma
is very difficult, as the patient will show no abnormal
signs during the early stages. Its symptoms are very
similar to lung disease and cancer. The major dilemma
with this is that it takes a minimum of fifteen to twenty
years to see the disease in its full strength. There
are several imaging techniques used to confirm the presence
of mesothelioma especially in case of people who have
asbestos related professions.
Some of the imaging
- A chest x-ray can reveal pleural effusion (fluid build-up)
which is confined to either the right (60%) or left
(40%) lung. Sometimes a mass may be seen.
tomography (CT) - CT scans are used
to define pleural effusion or pleural thickening, pleural
calcification, thickening of interlobular fissures or
possible chest wall invasion. CT scans are also valuable
in guiding fine needle aspiration of pleural masses
for tissue diagnosis. It is originally known as Computed
Axial Tomography (CAT).
Resonance Imaging (MRI – MRI
scans are used for identifying the treatment to be used
rather than the presence of mesothelioma. Because they
provide images in multiple planes, so it’s better
to determine the extent of tumors as opposed to normal
structures. They are more accurate than CT scans in
assessing enlargement nodes. Both CT and MRI play an
important role in surgical candidacy.
Emission Tomography (PET) - PET imaging
is now becoming an important part of the diagnosis and
evaluation of mesothelioma. While PET scans are more
expensive, they are the most diagnostic of tumor sites
as well as the most superior in determining the staging
- For pleural mesothelioma a special instrument called
a thoracoscope is used to look inside the chest cavity.
A cut will be made through the chest wall and the thoracoscope
will be put into the chest between two ribs. If fluid
has collected in the chest, it will be drained out of
your body by inserting a needle into the chest and using
gentle suction to remove the fluid. This process is
- For peritoneal mesothelioma a peritoneoscope is used
to look inside the abdomen. The peritoneoscope is put
into an opening made in the abdomen. If fluid has collected
in your abdomen inserting a needle into the abdomen
and using gentle suction to remove the fluid drain it
out. This process is called paracentesis.
- If any abnormal tissue is found, the doctor will need
to cut out a small piece and have to look at under a
microscope. This is usually done during the thoracoscopy
or peritoneoscopy. It can also be done during surgery.
It is also important
to know if the mesothelioma is localized or has spread
to other parts of the body. This is because all these
factors contribute to planning the treatment to be given
to the patient.