Mesothelioma Diagnosis and Treatment

Asbestos-related diseases can be difficult to diagnose and treat. Among the illnesses caused by asbestos exposure, mesothelioma is perhaps the most serious. Mesothelioma is a relatively rare form of malignant cancer that effects the protective lining (called the mesothelium) covering most internal organs. The disease becomes particularly dangerous when these cancerous cells spread to other parts of the body. It may take decades before you suffer from the symptoms of mesothelioma. Diagnosis typically follows a number of tests, including a biopsy.

If you have reason to believe that you or a loved one has developed an asbestos-related illness, it is important to gain an initial understanding of what to expect. As with all medical conditions or treatment, it is best to keep an open line of communication with your doctor through all stages of the mesothelioma diagnosis and treatment stages.

See FindLaw's Toxic Chemicals and Materials section for related articles and resources.

Mesothelioma Diagnosis

If your health care provider suspects you have mesothelioma or some other asbestos-related illness, he or she will usually start by identifying the possibility of asbestos exposure. This would include looking at your medical, work, and environmental history. For instance, someone who refurbished old buildings for a number of years may have been exposed. Next, your health care provider will perform a physical examination that may include one or more of the following:

  • Chest X-ray
  • Pulmonary function exams
  • Computer tomography (CT) scan
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan

In the event that one or more of these tests identifies something suspicious, your health care provider will likely recommend a biopsy to confirm a diagnosis. A biopsy may be either a needle biopsy an open biopsy. In a needle biopsy, fluid is removed and examined for cancerous cells. In an open biopsy, a surgeon will make a small incision in the chest wall or abdominal cavity and remove a sample of tissue to be examined for cancerous cells.

Once the fluid or tissue sample has been obtained, your health care provider will have a pathologist examine the sample in order to determine whether there is a type of cancer or disease present in the cells. After a positive mesothelioma diagnosis by the pathologist, your health care provider will recommend an appropriate course of treatment.

Mesothelioma Treatment Options

If you receive a diagnosis of mesothelioma, your primary health care provider will refer you to an oncologist for treatment. An oncologist is a doctor who specializes in the treatment of cancer. Oncologists often specialize in certain types of cancer, so you should consider looking for those specializing in mesothelioma or lung cancer.

For a patient with a mesothelioma diagnosis, the treatment options recommended are based on both the overall health of the patient and the "stage" of the illness. Identifying stages is a system developed by doctors to evaluate the progression of a disease. In the case of mesothelioma, doctors have developed three different staging systems. The first is the Butchart System, which looks at the extent of the primary tumor mass. The second is the TNM System, which looks at the tumor mass, lymph node involvement, and metastasis. The third is the Brigham system, which looks at the ability to remove tumors surgically, and lymph node involvement.

After assessing overall health and the stage of the disease, the treatment options most often available include surgery, chemotherapy or special clinical trials. However, some oncologists may also recommend immunotherapy or gene therapy in certain cases. Generally speaking, cancers that are isolated in one location are much easier to treat than cancers that have metastasized (or spread to different parts of the body).

Because there are a variety of treatment options available, patients should not hesitate to ask about the pros and cons of each option. Therapeutic methods are constantly changing, so finding the best treatment option for your situation can make all the difference.

Mesothelioma Diagnosis? Get a Free Initial Review of Your Legal Claim

If you have been given a diagnosis of mesothelioma, treatment is often both physically and emotionally draining, involving considerable medical costs. By filing a mesothelioma claim, patients can receive compensation for their medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering. Before moving forward with your claim, however, it's in your best interests to meet with an experienced attorney for a free initial claim evaluation. A lawyer will be able to discuss the strengths and weaknesses of your case and advise you on your legal options.

Next Steps

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