Mesothelioma is cancer that occurs in the linings of the lungs and abdominal region. The cause of mesothelioma is Asbestos (a group of six naturally occurring minerals made up of heat-resistant fibers). Asbestos was a material used by manufacturers primarily for construction work. These chemicals were ingested by workers in the past, which is why mesothelioma usually occurs in the older population.
There are four types of mesothelioma:
- Pleural Mesothelioma (lining of lungs)
- Peritoneal Mesothelioma (lining of abdominal cavity-peritoneum)
- Pericardial Mesothelioma (lining of heart-pericardium)
- Testicular Mesothelioma (lining of testes)
Mesothelioma is diagnosed by performing various tests. There are four stages of a commonly used method for diagnosing mesothelioma:
Mesothelioma is a rare type of cancer and is often confused with thoracic and abdominal disorders. For example, Pleural Mesothelioma has several symptoms related to respiratory disorders like pneumonia. Also, Peritoneal Mesothelioma can be confused with abdominal or digestive disorders. So, there is a high chance of misdiagnosis in patients. Doctors need to identify specialized characteristic cancerous cells that lead to mesothelioma. In case of an appropriate mesothelioma diagnosis, the victim is eligible for compensation. Mesothelioma treatment isn’t cheap, and a diagnosis could change your life forever. If you or a loved one is suffering from this cancer, you could file a mesothelioma lawsuit if the asbestos exposure was due to an employer’s negligence.
Example of Misdiagnosis: The doctor may confuse mesothelioma with other disorders such as upper respiratory tract disorder. For instance, peritoneal mesothelioma may be confused with the following medical issues:
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Ulcerative colitis
- Ovarian cancer
- Heart failure or heart disease
What makes Mesothelioma so difficult to detect?
Following are the major reasons that lead to misdiagnoses of Mesothelioma:
- Low prevalence: Only 3000 people are diagnosed in the U.S.A for Mesothelioma
- Complexion: As mentioned above, mesothelioma is a rare type of cancer. The research is not sufficient to explain all the aspects of this disorder. Currently, Asbestos is the only known cause of Mesothelioma
- The Resemblance of Cellular Structures: Cells of Mesothelioma usually match with cells of other forms of cancers. Physicians are unable to diagnose the exact type of cancerous cells.
- Stage: Mesothelioma has four stages that can be confused and misdiagnosed with each other. More than 80% of stage 1 mesothelioma patients received an incorrect diagnosis.
- Long Latency Period: symptoms appear after a long time following asbestos exposure, usually taking 20-50 years to diagnose Mesothelioma.
- Cytology: Various types of staining techniques are used to indicate the presence or absence of cancerous cells in the human body. Some physiologists only use staining techniques to diagnose cancer and do not consider the patient’s medical history and the type of tumor present in a patient.
- Imaging Techniques: Various imaging techniques like Computerized Tomography (CT scan) and X-rays are used to identify common types of cancers. However, mesothelioma requires a biopsy for correct diagnosis. A tissue biopsy is one of the best methods to diagnose mesothelioma.
Importance of Correct Diagnosis: Diagnosing a disorder at its early stage can help a physician treat their patient early and increase survival chances. Misdiagnosing can make a disorder worst. By diagnosing correctly, the doctor can make a plan for starting the treatment. Darlene Micciche, a mesothelioma survivor, was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. But after a second opinion, she was diagnosed with peritoneal mesothelioma. She received proper surgery and chemotherapy and is now living a healthy and happy life.
How to Prevent Misdiagnosis: Misdiagnosis can be prevented by following several measures to ensure the patient’s survival. If you feel any symptoms and visit your family doctor, but are not satisfied by their diagnosis, go for a second opinion from a different doctor. If your regular doctor is not a mesothelioma specialist, you should visit a specialist. They will have a broader knowledge about mesothelioma than a regular physician. They will follow a plan to diagnose and treat effectively. Following are the reasons for a second opinion:
- Results in a favorable diagnosis
- Correct diagnosis of the stage of the disease
- Provides satisfaction
- Provides different treatment options depending upon the stage of disease
Mesothelioma is a rare disease, and many oncologists do not have proper command over it. A recent study shows that in 15% of cases, the doctors changed their medical diagnosis, while in 37% of cases, they had to resort to other forms of treatment.
Diagnosis of Mesothelioma: Diagnosing mesothelioma starts with utilizing medical imaging techniques like Computerized Tomography (CT Scan) and X-rays. In peritoneal mesothelioma, fluid fills the abdominal (peritoneal) region. So, the presence of this fluid can be mistaken for many diseases. Multiple tests can increase the chances of correct diagnosis.
Following factors play an important role in diagnosing mesothelioma:
- Imaging techniques
- Pathology tests
- History of patient
- Genetic tests
- Biopsy of the tissue
- Size of the tumor
- Patient’s age and activities
- Patient’s general health
- Amount of fluid in chest or abdomen
- Whether the cancer is new or recurred
In 2019, a patient was reported to have pleural mesothelioma, which remarkably resembled lung cancer. Pathological tests confirmed that the patient was suffering from mesothelioma.
Mesothelioma Recurrence and Remission: Mesothelioma is a poorly developing disease, and in some patients, it can show remission and recurrence. There are two common types of mesothelioma remission:
- Partial Remission: Reduction in tumor size is called partial remission. The extent of mesothelioma may reduce in this case. 30 % size of the tumor is reduced in partial remission.
- Complete Remission: you may observe complete remission in patients with early diagnosis and aggressive treatments. The tumor is destroyed or removed in these patients and is no longer visible in imaging techniques.
After remission, patients should have regular medical checkups to diagnose recurrence at its early stage. Recurrence is unpredictable.
Diagnosis of every disease is very important for effective and timely treatment. Cancer, especially mesothelioma, must be diagnosed early for quick treatment. Misdiagnosis of mesothelioma occurs because the collection of fluid in the abdomen and pleural region may cause doctors to confuse it with other abdominal and pleural disorders. Patients should visit a specialist who can correctly diagnose the stage and type of mesothelioma. The patient should go for checkups regularly. If the patient is not satisfied with the first diagnosis, they should seek a second opinion. After diagnosis, the patient should go for immediate treatment.