When a physician suspects that a patient has mesothelioma, a diagnosis will be established using several advanced tests. The diagnostic process may vary from patient to patient, but imaging scans and biopsies are typically used to determine if mesothelioma is the cause of a patient’s symptoms.
The process often begins with an imaging scan, such as an:
- CT (computed tomography) scan
- PET (positron emission tomography) scan
- MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scan
These scans produce images of a patient’s thoracic and abdominal cavities. A radiologist can then review the images to determine if there is an unusual growth in the pleural space or the peritoneal space, where mesothelioma often develops. However, a mesothelioma diagnosis usually cannot be established with just an imaging test. If a scan shows an abnormal growth, a sample of the cells will be retrieved for further testing. This procedure is called a biopsy. Although most biopsies involve tissue samples taken directly from a tumor, some may involve fluid samples taken from a pleural or peritoneal effusion (fluid buildup).
Because mesothelioma symptoms often mimic those of less serious conditions, a physician may not run tests for a mesothelioma diagnosis until other, more common conditions (such as pneumonia) have been ruled out. However, at Moffitt Cancer Center, we diagnose more cases of mesothelioma in a year than some physicians will see throughout their entire careers and are extremely familiar with its warning signs, which can help lead to an early diagnosis. We offer an extensive range of diagnostic tests under one roof, and several different specialists work together to confirm (or rule out) each mesothelioma diagnosis. Should a patient’s tests come back positive, we are able to offer the most innovative therapies available, taking an individualized approach to improve outcomes and ensure a better quality of life.