Mesothelioma detection and diagnosis

Sometimes malignant mesothelioma causes fluid to collect around the lung or in the abdomen. These symptoms may be caused by the fluid or malignant mesothelioma. Other conditions may also cause the same symptoms. Check with your doctor if you have any of the following problems:

  • Trouble breathing.
  • Pain under the rib cage.
  • Pain or swelling in the abdomen.
  • Lumps in the abdomen.
  • Weight loss for unknown reasons.

Sometimes it is hard to tell the difference between malignant mesothelioma and lung cancer. The following tests and procedures may be used:

  • Physical exam and history: To check general signs of health, including for signs of disease, such as lumps or anything else that seems unusual. A history of the patient’s health habits, exposure to asbestos, past illnesses and treatments will also be taken.
  • Chest X-ray: An X-ray of the organs and bones inside the chest. An X-ray is a type of energy beam that goes through the body, making a picture of areas inside the body onto film.
  • Complete blood count (CBC): To draw a sample of blood to check for the following:
    • The number of red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets.
    • The amount of hemoglobin (the protein that carries oxygen) in the red blood cells.
    • The portion of the blood sample made up of red blood cells.
  • Sedimentation rate: A sample of blood is drawn and checked for the rate at which the red blood cells settle to the bottom of the test tube.
  • Biopsy: The removal of cells or tissues from the pleura or peritoneum so they can be viewed under a microscope by a pathologist to check for signs of cancer. Procedures used to collect the cells or tissues include the following:
    • Bronchoscopy: Looks inside the trachea and large airways in the lung for abnormal areas. A bronchoscope is inserted through the nose or mouth into the trachea and lungs. A bronchoscope is a thin, tube-like instrument with a light and a lens for viewing. It may also have a tool to remove tissue samples, which are checked under a microscope for signs of cancer.
    • Cytologic exam: To examine cells under a microscope (by a pathologist) to check for anything abnormal. For mesothelioma, fluid is taken from around the lungs or from the abdomen. A pathologist checks the cells in the fluid.