Mesothelioma takes decades to develop, but then progresses rapidly. Because the symptoms overlap with many other diseases and ailments, this aggressive cancer often escapes early detection. It is most commonly diagnosed in advanced stages, when treatment options are fewer and survival rates are grim.
Thus time is of the essence. As frightening and demoralizing as a diagnosis may be, every day counts in the diagnosis and treatment of mesothelioma. There are cutting-edge treatments that can eradicate the tumors, extend life or ameliorate the painful symptoms.
The lawyers of The Gori Law Firm, excel at extracting compensation from employers and corporations responsible for asbestos exposure. On the front end, our primary focus is helping clients get a prompt diagnosis and access to the best medical care possible.
What To Expect In The Mesothelioma Diagnosis Process
If you or a family member has symptoms of asbestos-related disease, especially with a history of exposure, you should seek medical treatment without delay. A family physician is a good start, but he or she will not be able to verify a diagnosis of mesothelioma or asbestos lung cancer. We can help clients get referrals to oncologists or mesothelioma/asbestosis specialists.
The diagnosis protocol will depend partly on the symptoms and suspected stage of the disease. However, you can expect some or all of the following:
Medical history — A thorough review of the sources of known or likely exposure to asbestos, through past employment, military service or secondary exposure, going back as much as 40 or 50 years.
Physical examination — Documentation of the patient’s symptoms, additional indications such as excess fluid in the chest cavity, general state of health and existing health conditions (comorbidity) that might affect treatment decisions.
In the initial physical exam or follow-up appointments, the doctor may order some or all of the following:
- Breathing tests — This consists of blowing into a tube to gauge lung function.
- Blood work — Blood samples are taken to obtain a baseline CBC (complete blood count).
- Diagnostic scans — You’ll undergo an X-ray, CT scan, PET scan or MRI of the pleural cavity (chest) or peritoneal cavity (abdomen) to corroborate a diagnosis and to pinpoint location, size and spread of the tumors.
- Biopsy — Excision of a sample of lung tissue or pleural tissue to verify the diagnosis and identify the type of cancer and stage of the disease. This may be a needle biopsy under local anesthetic or a surgical biopsy in which the patient’s chest or abdomen is cut open and samples are taken directly from different areas.
- Bronchoscopy — Insertion of a flexible tube down the throat to visually inspect the lungs for scarring and fibroid masses (asbestosis) or tumors (cancer). The bronchoscope can also be used for biopsy.
- Chemical or microscopic analysis — Differentiating between types of cancer is critical to treatment. Advanced techniques allow the oncologist to determine if the biopsied mass is mesothelioma, lung cancer, another cancer or benign (non-cancerous).
All of these tests take a lot of time, especially if doctors have the patient wait for lab results. Plan to spend several hours if not the entire day at the clinic or hospital.
What If The Dreaded Diagnosis Is Confirmed?
A confirmation of mesothelioma is not itself surprising at this point. The shock factor is when patients and family members learn how far the disease has spread. Most patients are diagnosed at the later stages when treatments are limited.
- Stage I: The tumors are still localized in the mesothelium (chest wall). Surgical removal and all other treatments are viable, and survival rates are relatively good.
- Stage II: The disease has spread beyond the mesothelium to the lungs, diaphragm or pericardium (heart sac), but not to the lymph nodes. More radical surgeries may still be an option, and radiation and chemotherapy may be able to halt the progression and extend life.
- Stage III: The malignant cells have invaded the fatty tissues and lymph nodes of the chest cavity and abdominal cavity. Radiation and other therapies can slow but not stop the disease.
- Stage IV: The cancer has spread to other organs throughout the body and compromised major systems such as the heart, digestive tract and spinal cord. Treatment in this end stage is focused on making the person as comfortable as possible.
Nationwide Assistance And Representation For People With Mesothelioma And Asbestos Disease
We are always available to help clients find doctors in their area who can diagnose asbestos diseases or connect with specialists at leading treatment centers around the United States that are pushing the frontiers of mesothelioma treatment.
Our attorneys have handled thousands of cases and obtained more than $4 billion on behalf of our clients. Based in Madison County, Illinois, we represent people throughout the United States. For a free case evaluation, please call our law offices directly or contact us online.