What to expect when getting a mesothelioma diagnosis

If you were exposed to asbestos during your life, whether at work, at home or in the military service, you know how important it is to be on the lookout for signs or symptoms of asbestos-related diseases including mesothelioma.

Keeping an eye out for these signs can often help you obtain a diagnosis as soon as possible, which, in turn, can help you get the treatment you need. However, what can you expect to encounter in the process of getting a diagnosis?

Be ready to answer your doctor’s questions

The first thing you generally do when you experience symptoms of mesothelioma is schedule a visit with your physician. This is a logical step, but you must prepare yourself for this visit. Your first is often with your primary care physician. If the PCP feels it is warranted, the PCP may refer you to a pulmonologist (or lung specialist). If you already have an established relationship with a pulmonologist, you would likely be best served-from a time, cost, and expertise standpoint-by going ahead and seeing a pulmonologist first.

Medical professionals will likely ask many questions at your visit, including:

  • What kind of symptoms are you experiencing?
  • How are these symptoms affecting your daily life?
  • What is your medical history?
  • How were you exposed to asbestos?

Keeping careful notes about your symptoms and understanding the risk factors of asbestos exposure can help you prepare to answer these questions accurately. This can also help you develop your own questions to ask about what a diagnosis could mean, and the treatment options available to you.

Remember: Official diagnoses require tests

Your doctor will often begin with a physical examination to look for abnormalities. They might also order X-rays, a pulmonary function test, and a CT scans to determine if there is a cause for concern.

However, the only way to confirm someone has mesothelioma is through a biopsy. This can be a minor procedure – often using either a needle biopsy or a minor surgical procedure. These procedures allow medical professionals to take tissue from your lungs and test it for cancer cells. Other biopsies may be more intrusive. Which one you need will be determined by your doctor.

How do you prepare for a biopsy?

Any ​surgical procedure, even a minor, non-invasive one, can put people on edge. This is understandable, but knowing what to expect can help you move forward with confidence.

Biopsies may involve different procedures, with some requiring little or no preparation. However, since mesothelioma most commonly affects the lungs, the procedure usually requires anesthesia.

In these cases, consult your doctor about how to prepare for the procedure, but you may have to:

  • Abstain from certain medications before the procedure, such as blood thinners
  • Fast for a period before the procedure
  • Have someone ready to accompany you and drive you home after the biopsy

Obtaining a diagnosis can be overwhelming, but it can help you plan for your future, and help reduce the fear you and your family face for what is to come.

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