A mesothelioma diagnosis can be very discouraging for patients who have unknowingly developed the disease. In most cases, receiving a mesothelioma diagnosis will take several visits to different doctors, spanning over several months.
The nature of mesothelioma and the difficulty in diagnosing it is one of the reasons why it is necessary for individuals who worked with asbestos to provide a complete occupational history to their doctors. Experts have deemed that even a brief exposure to the toxic mineral can result in the development of mesothelioma.
When someone begins experiencing symptoms that may be connected with mesothelioma, an appointment is made to see a family doctor or general practitioner. However, because the early symptoms are quite common and often associated with other, less serious conditions, the doctor may prescribe antibiotics or over-the-counter pain killers meant to address an infection like pneumonia, bronchitis, or some other respiratory illness. The patient, when confronted with symptoms that do not subside despite the medication, will most likely schedule a follow-up appointment for further examination.
Once the doctor is attuned to the fact that the patient was exposed to asbestos or suspects that the symptoms may indicate more than just a common infection, he or she may take this opportunity to conduct additional tests. Diagnostic testing will be used to confirm a diagnosis of mesothelioma, to determine its location and size, and to view the extent of any metastases.
Once the doctor is fairly certain that mesothelioma is present, he or she will order additional tests to further confirm the diagnosis. These are generally fluid- or tissue-related tests and may include:
Once a mesothelioma diagnosis is determined, the patient will be referred to an oncologist and perhaps a thoracic surgeon, who will determine the best course of treatment. The patient should gather all the information possible about the disease in order to make informed decisions about treatment options. The mesothelioma patient may also want to consider speaking to a counselor, psychologist or trusted clergy member who can help in dealing with the diagnosis from a mental health angle.