Some patients suspected of having malignant mesothelioma have a known history of exposure to asbestos, while others may not be aware that they ingested or inhaled the toxic material. Whether physicians have good reason to suspect the rare form of cancer or are simply working through a differential diagnosis, radiologists play a crucial role in reaching a definitive conclusion.
Pleural mesothelioma appears in the same region as lung cancer, and it takes a knowledgeable radiologist to be able to view scans and spot the minute differences. This is especially challenging with lung cancer being so common and mesothelioma representing such a rarity, and especially important because the sooner the diagnosis is made, the faster appropriate treatment can begin.
Radiologists have several tools and gauges that they can use to identify mesothelioma. Among these are the amount of fluid and edema seen on an X-ray, any thickening of nodes in the pleural lining, localized lesions or irregular fissural thickening. Ultrasound and thoracoscopy can also help with these particular measures. Other, more complex scans such as CT, MRI and PET are usually the tools that provide conclusive images, as they are useful in providing information about the extent of the disease, and therefore the stage of the patient’s illness. Of these three, MRI is likely the modality that radiologists rely upon the most, as it provides surgeons with the greatest amount of details by which to plan a surgery.
Diagnostic imaging does not stand alone as a tool for confirming a mesothelioma diagnosis. In most cases, a biopsy is also taken and immunohistochemical staining is performed to identify the various identifying factors within the tumor, and therefore the mesothelioma cell type. Once this identification is made, physicians will design the treatment approach best suited to the stage of the disease and the mesothelioma cell type, as well as the treatment that best suit’s the patient’s wishes.
If you or someone you love is suspected of having mesothelioma and you need more information, we can help. Contact the Patient Advocates at Mesothelioma.net today at 1-800-692-8608 to learn more.