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Mesothelioma is often difficult to diagnose. Because it is a rare disease, many health care providers are not informed enough about it to recognize it. The symptoms of mesothelioma are often the same or similar to symptoms of other illnesses, making it only one of many things that must be tested for.
Because mesothelioma does not emerge until 15 to 50 years after exposure, it can be difficult for patients and health care providers to make the link between the illness and the exposure. Additionally, many victims don't know they were exposed, and it is only after diagnosis that they begin to explore their work history to determine how exposure could have happened.
Mesothelioma is diagnosed using:
- Medical and Occupational History
- Physical Exam: This includes listening to the chest with a stethoscope to detect and analyze breathing sounds. Physicians may ask the patient to make certain sounds and listen for them through the chest. The physician may also tap on the chest and listen for a dull thumping sound. Enlarged lymph nodes are also an important indicator.
- Diagnostic Imaging Tests: CT (Computed Tomography) scans, MRIs (Magnetic Resonance Imaging), chest x-rays, and PET (Positron Emission Tomography) are used to 'see' inside the body and detect tumors and fluid.
- Pathological Tests: Cytology (examination of fluid from the lung) and pathology (examination of tissue samples) are performed on samples obtained using thoracoscopy (a tiny video camera inserted into the lung that can take biopsies), laparoscopy (a tiny video camera inserted into the abdomen that can take biopsies), bronchoscopy (a tube inserted down the throat and into the lungs that can take a biopsy), and mediastinoscopy (a lighted tube inserted into the chest that allows the surgeon to see lymph nodes and take samples) are methods that are used.
- Pulmonary Function Tests: These tests evaluate the pulmonary system.
OSHA (the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration) recommends annual medical surveillance for workers exposed to asbestos. If you are over the age of 45 and were exposed to asbestos on the job more than ten years ago, you should be evaluated for asbestos disease, even if you don't have any symptoms.
If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with mesothelioma, lung cancer, or another asbestos-related disease, contact us today for a free case evaluation.