Posted on February 14th, 2017
Mesothelioma has very rapid and aggressive progress and early diagnosis is vital. Detecting mesothelioma in its early stages will not only provide you with the maximum treatment options available, but it can also substantially improve your prognosis and quality of life.
Mesothelioma is a very rare and complex form of cancer with approximately 3,000 cases diagnosed annually in the U.S. In addition to the low prevalence of mesothelioma, the symptoms associated with this malignant disease can easily be mistaken for the signs of less severe respiratory or gastrointestinal conditions such as asthma, pneumonia or irritable bowel syndrome.
Occasionally, mesothelioma can also be misdiagnosed as lung cancer or adenocarcinoma, a form of cancer that affects the mucus-secreting glands. Receiving a reliable and accurate diagnosis is crucial, as mesothelioma has very aggressive progress and treatment should never be unnecessarily delayed.
The symptoms of mesothelioma are often confused with various other common lung diseases, which could be benign or less serious.
This type of mesothelioma accounts for nearly 80% of all diagnosed mesothelioma cases. The most commonly experienced symptoms of pleural mesothelioma, include shortness of breath, chest pain, fatigue, a persistent cough, and unintentional weight loss. However, these signs are frequently associated with the following lung conditions and because of this pleural mesothelioma is often misdiagnosed as either of these listed conditions:
Peritoneal mesothelioma represents less than 20% of all cases and typically entails symptoms such as abdominal pain, fatigue, unexplained weight loss, excess fluid in the abdomen, loss of appetite, and build-up of gas. Similar signs also accompany less severe gastrointestinal conditions like irritable bowel syndrome, as well as other malignant diseases occurring in the abdominal cavity. Hence, peritoneal mesothelioma may be misdiagnosed as any of these conditions:
Approximately 2% of all mesothelial tumors develop on the outer lining of the heart, hence the extremely low number of pericardial mesothelioma patients. The most frequently experienced symptoms are heart palpitations, difficulty breathing, fatigue, fever, night sweats, chest pain, and a persistent coughing, which can also be found in patients suffering from:
As a result, pericardial mesothelioma is often mistaken as pericarditis, heart murmur, or pleural effusion.
Testicular mesothelioma is the rarest form, occurring in less than 1% of patients diagnosed with mesothelioma. Although a specific set of symptoms could not be identified yet due to the low number of documented cases, some signs which could indicate the presence of testicular mesothelioma are an abnormal lump in the testicles, pain, swelling, and fluid buildup. This type of mesothelioma can thus easily be mistaken for one of the following diseases:
Diagnosing mesothelioma is very challenging for multiple reasons. There are numerous factors that may contribute to the disease being misdiagnosed as a more frequently occurring condition or even as another form of cancer with similar symptoms. Some of the most common reasons why mesothelioma fails to be recognized by oncologists are:
Both pleural mesothelioma and lung cancer development in the chest cavity and are accompanied by virtually the same symptoms. However, the two diseases are dissimilar in many respects. Although lung cancer can also be caused by prolonged exposure to asbestos, it is an entirely different form of cancer than mesothelioma. Distinguishing between lung cancer and pleural mesothelioma is crucial, as each malignant disease requires a very specific treatment regimen. Regrettably, it is not uncommon for mesothelioma to be misdiagnosed as lung cancer due to the similarities both types of cancer display, which results in numerous patients undergoing the wrong treatment.
It is essential to be aware of the main differences between pleural mesothelioma and lung cancer so as to prevent misdiagnosis. We have compiled a list of the clearest dissimilarities between the two forms of cancer which will hopefully help you avoid receiving an inaccurate diagnosis:
Choosing a board-certified oncologist specialized in mesothelioma cases who have vast experience in treating it is absolutely crucial to avoid misdiagnosis and gain access to appropriate treatment. Mesothelioma has very rapid and aggressive progress and early diagnosis is vital. Detecting cancer in its early stages will not only provide you with the maximum treatment options available, but it can also substantially improve your prognosis and quality of life.
A mesothelioma specialist will promptly order a series of tests and examination procedures which will eventually reveal whether you suffer from mesothelioma or not. Nevertheless, it is important to know that the entire diagnostic process may take up to three months, as the oncologist will first try to eliminate common causes that might be responsible for your symptoms and you will have to undergo multiple tests for an accurate evaluation. The most relevant tests for mesothelioma include:
To ensure the accuracy of the diagnosis, seeking a second opinion from an experienced mesothelioma specialist as soon as possible is often vital. Malignant pleural mesothelioma has a rapid progression with a high mortality rate and overall survival of less than 1 year. A history of asbestos exposure should be taken into consideration by the pathologist when confirming or excluding a mesothelioma diagnosis.
The presence of tumor masses as well as the damages mesothelioma causes to the lung such as inflammation or necrosis, are factors that lead to a wrong diagnosis of lung cancer - a condition separate from mesothelioma with different treatment plans and prognosis. Measures of detection are in the process of catching up with work-related lung diseases, in relation to the accuracy of making a diagnosis.
For example, B-Readers are physicians trained and certified in asbestos-related lung X-rays, by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. Practically, a B-Reader looks for changes or abnormalities on the chest X-ray that can be caused by inhalation of particles such as asbestos and silica.
Unfortunately, the rate of mesothelioma misdiagnosis is very high and a tremendous number of patients are thereby prevented from undergoing effective treatment, which could considerably improve their prognosis. If the disease is not promptly attended to, most patients will survive for only one year.