The average time from initial symptoms, such as shortness of breath or chest pain, to diagnosis of mesothelioma is approximately three months. The latency of mesothelioma, the period after exposure to asbestos and before initial symptoms occur, is about 20-50. Early detection of cancer, when it is small and before it has spread, often allows for more treatment options. Some early cancers may have signs and symptoms that are noticed, but this is not always the case.
Asbestos has a very long latency period. Symptoms of mesothelioma can take 20 to 50 years to be present. Because of the long latency period of asbestos, many patients with mesothelioma are not diagnosed until the late stages of the disease. That's why early detection and medical intervention are important to extend life expectancy.
Although there is no cure for mesothelioma, if the disease is found in its early stages, treatment options and outcomes do improve. However, because the time between the first exposure to asbestos and the diagnosis of mesothelioma is usually between 20 and 50 years, the disease is usually detected when it is advanced. In addition to the time it takes for the disease to develop and symptoms, diagnosis is often delayed because these symptoms resemble other, more common conditions. Because people confuse these symptoms with other minor ailments, they will take their time to go to the doctor or ignore their symptoms altogether.
Biopsy is the main test used to diagnose mesothelioma. It involves removing a sample of tissue, which is examined under a microscope by a specialist doctor called a pathologist. If your doctor thinks you may have mesothelioma, the first step is usually a chest x-ray. You should have the x-ray within two weeks and then you should receive the results within five business days.
Symptoms of peritoneal mesothelioma (mesothelioma of the lining of the abdomen) may include abdominal pain (tummy), bloating or fluid in the abdomen, weight loss (without trying), nausea and vomiting, and constipation. Symptoms of pleural mesothelioma (mesothelioma of the chest) may include pain in the side of the chest or lower back, shortness of breath, cough, fever, excessive sweating, fatigue, weight loss (without trying), difficulty swallowing (feeling that food is stuck), hoarseness, and swelling of the face and arms. Once mesothelioma is confirmed, your doctor may recommend additional tests to see if the cancer has spread to the lymph nodes or other areas of the body. The only conclusive way to make a diagnosis of mesothelioma is to perform a tissue or fluid cell biopsy.
If mesothelioma is confused with another condition, treatment will be delayed, which may worsen the patient's prognosis. Doctors have found that people with mesothelioma have high levels of certain substances in their blood, such as fibulin-3 and soluble mesothelin-related peptides (SMRP). Regardless of the type of mesothelioma suspected, biopsies are always performed after these tests to check for cancer cells in the affected area. Linda Molinari has more than 15 years of experience as a writer and advocate for patients with mesothelioma and the ban on asbestos.
Once mesothelioma is confirmed and the stage has been decided, you'll see your specialist doctor to discuss test results and treatment options. The most common scans used to diagnose mesothelioma include x-rays, MRI scans, CT scans, positron emission tomography (PET) scans, and ultrasound scans. There are also forms of mesothelioma that begin in the heart and testicles, although they are extremely rare. Therefore, osteopontin tests that test positive will require additional tests to confirm the diagnosis of mesothelioma.
The treatment you receive for mesothelioma depends on your health status and certain aspects of the cancer, such as the stage and location. Mesothelioma can cause pressure inside your chest that can make you feel like you're always short of breath. You should ask if there is a multidisciplinary team of mesothelioma specialists in your area that can be involved in your care. In addition to blood tests, many future techniques for determining the diagnosis of a mesothelioma focus on biomarkers, which use substances or processes to identify abnormalities in the body.