Detecting and Diagnosing Mesothelioma

As with all cancers, early detection of mesothelioma can add years to your life. There is no cure, but there have been radical advancements in treatment in recent years. Most of the newest, best treatments are only available to patients in the early stages of the disease so diagnosing mesothelioma early is crucial.

Have you been exposed to asbestos?

Many people are not aware of having been exposed to asbestos. It can be in your home, your school, your car, or in household items. The majority of people who develop mesothelioma were exposed at work. High-risk industries and environments include:

  • Railroads
  • Shipyards
  • Mining
  • Oil refineries
  • Automotive manufacture and repair
  • Small appliance manufacture and repair
  • Construction
  • Demolition

If you suspect that you may have been exposed to asbestos at any time in your life, and have the symptoms of mesothelioma, talk to your doctor about a mesothelioma screening right away.


Mesothelioma symptoms usually take 10 to 50 years after exposure to appear. There are three types of mesothelioma.

Pleural mesothelioma affects the lungs. Symptoms include:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Persistent coughing
  • Coughing up blood
  • Rasping
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Fever
  • Weight loss

Peritoneal mesothelioma affects the stomach and abdomen. Symptoms include:

  • Abdominal swelling
  • Abdominal pain
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Loss of appetite
  • Bowel obstruction
  • Chest pain
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Anemia
  • Blood clotting abnormalities
  • Fever

Pericardial mesothelioma affects the heart. Symptoms include:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Persistent coughing
  • Chest pain
  • Palpitations
  • Irregular heartbeat


There are several phases of screening and diagnosis, starting with the least invasive methods and working their way up to biopsy. If pleural mesothelioma is suspected, your doctor will start off by simply listening to your lungs for characteristic crackling and high-pitched sounds.


Multiple imaging methods may be employed to look for the possibility of cancer. They cannot provide a definite diagnosis, but can tell your doctor if more invasive testing is appropriate. Imaging methods include:

  • X-rays
  • Computer tomography (CT scan)
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)
  • Positron Emission Tomography (PET scan)

The images provided by X-rays are very limited, but they are the least expensive and most facilities have X-ray equipment. CT scans are the next step up, giving a 3-D image and yielding more useful information. MRI is often more accurate than CT scans. The PET scan is considered the best imaging in mesothelioma diagnosis, allowing doctors to determine how advanced the disease has become so that appropriate action may be taken. PET scans are very expensive and may not be covered by insurance.

Pulmonary function tests

Pulmonary function tests (PFT) are used when pleural mesothelioma is suspected. They test the function of your lungs measuring:

  • How much air your lungs can hold
  • How quickly air moves in and out of your lungs
  • How much oxygen your lungs transfer from the air into your bloodstream


Ultimately, if cancer is suspected, a biopsy will be performed. It involves removing a small piece of tissue and looking at it under a microscope to see if it is cancerous. A biopsy is an invasive surgical procedure and therefore is normally the final step in mesothelioma diagnosis.

If you or a loved one has developed mesothelioma or any other asbestos related illness, contact us today, or click here for a free case review.