The Difficulty Diagnosing Mesothelioma
Imagine walking around your house one day only to realize you feel short of breath. It doesn’t seem like much, but a week later, you are still noticing it can be difficult to catch your breath after simply walking across the room. Finally, you decide it may be worth a trip to your doctor.
At first, it seems like nothing. Your doctor asks if you’ve been sick recently, which you reply with a quick no. You go home empty-handed. It’s been almost two weeks, and the shortness of breath has yet to subside. Another trip to the doctor and he decides on an X-ray to be on the safe side. A few weeks later, you’re walking out of the doctor’s office with a diagnosis you’ve only heard about on TV advertisements: Mesothelioma.
Why a Mesothelioma Diagnosis Can Be Difficult
Compared to other forms of cancer, mesothelioma is rare. Affecting an estimated 3,000 people in the U.S. every year, mesothelioma doesn’t generate the same media attention and medical school attention of more common cancers such as lung or breast cancers.
The lack of mesothelioma awareness goes further than patients not knowing about the disease. In fact, many general doctors are only educated about mesothelioma for a few minutes during a lecture in medical school. As a result, primary care physicians may fail to notice the signs and symptoms of the aggressive, asbestos-related cancer.
It is this very reason people need to see a mesothelioma specialist if they suspect having mesothelioma. These specialists are the only people who have dedicated their lives to patients suffering from the rare cancer.
The Route to Diagnosis
There is no clear path to a mesothelioma diagnosis that applies to every patient. The most common symptoms include chest or abdominal pain and difficulty breathing. Of course, these symptoms also overlap with other conditions such as lung cancer, COPD and asbestosis, which add an extra layer to the already difficult diagnosis.
In many cases, a patient will have a series of procedures, including X-rays, CT scans, MRIs, biopsies and PET scans. This lengthy process can take up to three months for an official diagnosis.
Early Mesothelioma Diagnosis Is Rare but Important
Even in cases where misdiagnosis doesn’t occur, it takes time for patients to get the proper diagnosis in the case of mesothelioma. As a result, the cancer may have progressed too far for some of the better treatment options.
When diagnosed with mesothelioma early, patients will have better treatment options and a better prognosis.
Monitor Your Health Carefully
The best chance for early diagnosis is to diligently monitor your health for any possible symptoms. If you think you have any symptoms of mesothelioma, talk to your doctor immediately; don’t minimize or dismiss anything.
Mesothelioma is most commonly caused by asbestos exposure. If you have any history of asbestos exposure, tell your doctor and begin routine screenings for mesothelioma and asbestosis. By being proactive about your health, you can increase your chances for early diagnosis if you do develop mesothelioma.