Occupational asbestos exposure can lead to the development of mesothelioma, an aggressive form of cancer. Diagnosing this serious condition can be challenging, however, as doing so requires multiple highly specific tests. Additionally, it can take decades for mesothelioma symptoms to appear, and the condition can be easily mistaken for other diseases.
Some of the most common symptoms of mesothelioma include:
- Abdominal pain
- Chest pain
- Chronic fatigue
- Difficulty breathing
- Frequent coughing
- Loss of appetite
- Unexplained weight loss
When you experience any combination of these symptoms and are aware you have been exposed to asbestos in the past, it is in your best interest to get screened for mesothelioma. To start, schedule an appointment with your doctor and explain your symptoms. You should emphasize your past asbestos exposure when going over your medical history and be prepared to advocate for yourself. Your doctor should then conduct a physical exam (specifically looking for lumps or abnormalities) followed by a series of basic diagnostic tests, which may include blood work, x-rays, or imaging tests. These tests alone cannot lead to a definitive mesothelioma diagnosis, but they can eliminate other possibilities.
Once more common explanations for your symptoms have been ruled out, your doctor will typically proceed with more sophisticated and targeted tests. These procedures are designed to specifically look for mesothelioma and other cancers. They may include positron emission tomography (PET) scans, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans, echocardiograms, and/or computed tomography (CT) scans.
If your condition cannot be identified at this point and your doctor believes mesothelioma may be a possibility, they will likely advance to a biopsy. This procedure removes and examines a sample of the concerning fluid or tissue and is the only way to reach a reliable mesothelioma diagnosis.
Can Mesothelioma Be Detected Early?
Unfortunately, there is no completely dependable technique for catching mesothelioma before symptoms appear at this time. Again, it may take multiple decades after asbestos exposure before the disease makes itself apparent. Research into new early detection methods is ongoing. Still, if you ever worked in an at-risk occupation for asbestos exposure or are aware of past asbestos exposure, you should consider regular screenings, which may include chest x-rays and pulmonary function tests.
Diagnosing mesothelioma early can improve prognosis and dramatically extend life expectancy. Additional treatments may be available for patients with stage 1 or stage 2 mesothelioma, for example. Some treatment is better than no treatment, so even patients with stage 3 and stage 4 mesothelioma will benefit from getting an accurate diagnosis as early as possible.
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Mesothelioma is a relatively rare form of cancer, and only approximately 3,000 cases are diagnosed each year in the United States. Consequently, many doctors are unfamiliar with it and may not initially know how to recognize symptoms and order the appropriate testing required for an accurate diagnosis.
Further complicating matters, mesothelioma shares many of its symptoms, including coughing and difficulty breathing, with other more common diseases. This can lead to a misdiagnosis, especially if your doctor has not encountered mesothelioma before.
Your doctor could mistake pleural mesothelioma symptoms for:
- Benign fibrous tumor
- Interstitial lung disease
- Lung cancer
Your doctor could mistake peritoneal mesothelioma symptoms for:
- Crohn’s disease
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Ischemic colitis
- Ovarian cancer
- Peritoneal carcinomatosis
- Uterine cancer
Your doctor could mistake pericardial mesothelioma symptoms for:
- Atrial myxoma
- Heart disease
- Heart failure
Your doctor could mistake testicular mesothelioma symptoms for:
- Benign adenomatoid tumor
- Scrotal hernia
Obtaining an accurate mesothelioma diagnosis is paramount to getting prompt treatment. Reminding your doctor of past asbestos exposure is often the key to getting one. Asbestos exposure is one of the top risk factors associated with all forms of mesothelioma, so with this information, your doctor should know to order the appropriate tests, including a biopsy, to test for this disease. Do not be afraid to insist upon mesothelioma testing if you know you were exposed to asbestos and your symptoms are consistent with the condition.
What to Do after a Mesothelioma Diagnosis
If you were recently diagnosed with mesothelioma, you should immediately get in touch with a specialist who can verify the accuracy of your diagnosis and walk you through treatment options. Treatment for mesothelioma can vary depending on the stage and specific type of cancer. Common treatments include surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, and immunotherapy. One or a combination of these treatments can greatly extend life expectancy, and a specialist can determine which treatment plan is best suited for you and your needs.
Additionally, because mesothelioma is in many cases triggered by occupational asbestos exposure, you should speak to a legal professional about your rights and legal options. Those affected by mesothelioma are often able to obtain compensation through one of several legal avenues, which may include filing a lawsuit, a claim with an asbestos bankruptcy trust, or a workers’ compensation claim.
At SWMW Law, your story matters to us – because people matter. We have made it our mission to fight on behalf of victims who developed mesothelioma because of occupational asbestos exposure in courtrooms throughout the United States. All of our attorneys have spent their careers arguing these cases and honing their abilities, giving them the skills and knowledge needed to craft effective arguments and overcome obstacles of all kinds. With over $750 million recovered for our clients to date, our results speak for themselves. No matter your situation, we are confident we can get you the maximum compensation you are entitled to, so do not wait to reach out after receiving a mesothelioma diagnosis.
Frequently Asked Questions about Diagnosing Mesothelioma
How Hard Is It to Diagnose Mesothelioma?
Diagnosing mesothelioma can be difficult due to its highly specialized nature, and the fact that it is often misdiagnosed as other conditions, including pneumonia, asthma, or lung cancer. Symptoms of mesothelioma may be subtle and develop very slowly over a long period of time, making them difficult to recognize until the disease has progressed to an advanced stage. In addition, there are no definitive tests available for diagnosing mesothelioma. Instead, doctors must rely on a combination of imaging studies (such as CT scans and x-rays), blood tests, and biopsies. As such, obtaining an accurate diagnosis can take weeks or months after symptoms first present themselves, which can lead to delays in receiving appropriate treatment.
How Long Does It Take to Get an Accurate Mesothelioma Diagnosis?
Due to the difficulty of recognizing its symptoms, which are very similar to those of other respiratory illnesses, diagnosing mesothelioma typically requires multiple tests over a period of several months. On average, it can take between 3 to 6 months after the initial onset of symptoms before receiving an official diagnosis. However, with the right doctor and diagnostic approach, some patients may be able to get an accurate diagnosis sooner than others.
Routine screenings following asbestos exposure may be able to help detect mesothelioma at its earliest stages, though this is historically rare. In many instances, it can be extremely difficult to diagnose mesothelioma before symptoms appear, which may take one or more decades after the initial exposure.
What Should I Do If I Believe I May Have Been Misdiagnosed?
If you are not confident your doctor has accurately diagnosed you, especially if they do not appear to be especially familiar with mesothelioma, do not wait to get a second opinion. If possible, reach out to a mesothelioma expert or a cancer center that may be better equipped to accurately detect this disease.
Were you or a loved one recently diagnosed with mesothelioma? Call (855) 744-1922 or contact us online to schedule a free initial consultation with our attorneys and learn more about what we can do for you and your family.
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