What Tests are Performed to Help Diagnose Mesothelioma?

For the men and women who worked in the asbestos industry, a chest film or chest x-ray was likely required by your employer or union. Unfortunately, some of the individuals I have had the opportunity to speak with tell me that they stopped monitoring their health through chest films once they retired or left the asbestos industry.

That may be the result of not having enough information from your employer, union, doctor or other resources regarding the potential risk and long latency period for asbestos-related diseases. You may not feel a chest x-ray or annual visit to your doctor was necessary because you haven’t experienced mesothelioma symptoms or were not ill. But if you have a history of asbestos exposure, an x-ray is an important tool for monitoring your health. A recent chest film should be compared to one from the previous year to chart any changes or abnormalities.

Even though an x-ray can identify pleural scarring, fluid accumulation and abnormal masses, further diagnostic testing is warranted if your physician feels it is necessary to provide or confirm a mesothelioma diagnosis. A CT or CAT scan can give your doctor a better picture of any fluid or masses surrounding your lungs, heart or diaphragm.

The powerful electromagnets of a MRI provide detailed images of the body and demonstrate a greater contrast between the soft tissues of the body. It can be a useful tool in determining the involvement of the tumor.

A PET scan requires radioactive glucose injected into the bloodstream to recognize high levels of glucose that are retained in active tumors, cancer cells and other infected areas. Areas with high levels of glucose will appear as bright spots or abnormal cells.

The latest technology combines both the CT scan and the PET scan into a single computer image to provide a more accurate image of tumor activity in the body. An area with high active sugar consumption suggests cancer while a low level of activity is indicative of a benign tumor, a healing or inflammatory response to an injury. Used together, the two can establish the location of a tumor or growth and identify excessive biological activity.

While all of the above procedures can identify pleural effusions, masses or other abnormalities in the body, none can determine if you have mesothelioma. Cytological analysis of pleural fluid or pathological testing of specimens from a tissue biopsy is recognized as the standard tool to obtain confirmation of a mesothelioma diagnosis.

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