Mesothelioma or Malignant Mesothelioma to give it its proper name is a rare kind of a cancer, which appears in the protective lining of the body’s organs or the mesothelium.
An early and definitive diagnosis is the key to any kind of successful cancer treatment; however a Mesothelioma diagnosis can be difficult to make and presents several challenges.
The rarity of the condition is another reason that makes a Mesothelioma diagnosis a challenge. However knowing the risk factors that result in this disease, can help one anticipate it and detect it somewhat earlier.
Risk factors of mesothelioma
There is an established cause effect link between asbestos exposure and a Mesothelioma diagnosis. Occupational exposure; as in those people who have worked with asbestos in the past, is known to create risk of developing the disease.
Even those who live with people who have been exposed to asbestos at work are more at risk. The disease could manifest decades after the actual exposure as well.
Those who live close to naturally occurring asbestos are also thought to be at risk. Also buildings of a certain age could contain asbestos – if they were built before the outlawing of asbestos, and doing structural or renovation work in such as premises could put a person at risk of asbestos exposure.
Difficulties of a mesothelioma diagnosis
Symptoms of Mesothelioma – Usually it is the symptoms that offer a clue as to the health problem a person could have. The difficulty making a diagnosis for Mesothelioma is however that the symptoms may be fairly generic and could be mistaken for several other conditions.
There could be shortness of breath, hoarseness of the voice, bloody cough sputum, difficulties swallowing, wheezing and so on. Pleural effusion or the buildup of fluid between the lining of the lungs and the chest which may be asymptomatic in some cases, and may show up only on X-ray may be another symptom.
Pain of the shoulder, arm, and chest and so on may be present. There could be weakness and unexplained weight loss. There could be swelling or pain in the abdomen, bowel obstruction, fever, anemia and many other general symptoms.
There are many different methods that can be used to make a Mesothelioma diagnosis-
The first step could be to review a person’s history to examine possibility of asbestos exposure and then the use of imaging techniques to try and detect the malignancies.
X-ray of the chest can show fluid buildup or pleural effusion in the chest but will typically not be able to show up Mesothelioma.
CT Scan/MRI – Computed Tomography or Magnetic Resonance Imaging are techniques also used to detect pleural effusions and determine abnormalities that could indicate this malignancy.
Lung function tests – Since the above technique may offer incomplete information, a lung function test may be conducted to make a more definitive diagnosis of Mesothelioma.
Video-Assisted Thoracoscopic Surgery (VATS) – This is one of the most widely used diagnostic tools for Mesothelioma.
Many other methods such as peritoneoscopy, thoracoscopy, biopsy of a combination of more than one method may be used to make a Mesothelioma diagnosis.