How is mesothelioma diagnosed?

If you experience shortness of breath, pain in the chest or abdomen, swelling in the abdomen, or any other unusual symptom, see your doctor! The doctor will take a history from you and perform a physical exam. In listening to your chest, the doctor may not hear breath sounds clearly on one side or may hear scratchy sounds in the chest (rub). Or the doctor may notice that your abdomen is swollen. After the examination, the doctor will link the symptoms your reported to the finding of the physical exam. The doctor will want to know whether or not you have had other symptoms, like fever, chills, pain, or unusual lumps on the torso. The doctor will also want to know whether your appetite is good and whether you have lost any weight. He or she may ask about asbestos exposure and cigarette use.

After performing the physical exam and taking a history that concentrates on whether you have developed shortness of breath or pain, the doctor will determine what other tests you will need. The doctor may also order blood work. When a tumor or fluid is found, the doctor will need to perform a procedure that will obtain cells for the physicians to study to determine whether this is a cancer or not. This can be done by performing a biopsy of the mass or by tapping fluid (inserting a needle and drawing out fluid) from the chest or belly cavity and then analyzing the cells that come with the fluid. The analysis of cells from fluid is called cytology. Although an x-ray or scan may provide useful information about the size, shape, and location of a tumor or fluid and may alert your doctor to the possibility of a cancer, an actual diagnosis of mesothelioma cannot be made without a biopsy, or undeniable evidence of cells in the fluid that have the characteristics of a mesothelioma.