Patients experiencing mesothelioma symptoms need to be examined using scans, tests, and biopsies. An initial physical exam can help a doctor identify possible mesothelioma symptoms. To officially diagnose a patient with mesothelioma, doctors usually need to do imaging tests and some type of biopsy. Although uncommon, some doctors use blood tests to help diagnose patients.
Malignant mesothelioma is a rare form of cancer caused by exposure to asbestos. Mesothelioma occurs in the mesothelium, which is a type of protective lining that surrounds certain internal organs. Approximately 2500-3500 individuals are diagnosed …
Mesothelioma Cell Types
The most common cell type for mesothelioma patients is epithelioid. Generally, epithelioid mesothelioma is the most treatable with the best prognosis.
A much less common cell type is sarcomatoid. Sarcomatoid cells spread quickly, making them more difficult to treat than epithelioid cells.
Patients can have a combination of epithelioid and sarcomatoid cells, this is called biphasic. Prognosis depends on the ratio of epithelioid cells to sarcomatoid cells.
Types of Biopsies
Biopsies involve taking fluid and tissue samples from the patient to examine more closely under a microscope. There are several different ways that doctors can obtain these samples.
Some biopsies involve surgical procedures. For these, an incision is made and the surgeon removes pieces of tumor for testing. In the chest this is called a thoracotomy and in the abdomen this is called a laparotomy.
A less invasive option for biopsy is a camera assisted surgical biopsy. This involves a few small incisions and a thin tube with a camera on the end. In the abdomen this is called a laparoscopy. In the chest this is a thoracoscopy (VATS) or a mediastinoscopy, depending on the location in the chest.
In many cases, doctors can remove tissue or fluid samples using a hollow needle. Needle biopsies are a minor, nonsurgical procedure. This less invasive biopsy is not as reliable as some other biopsy types because the needle doesn’t always remove a large enough sample to test.
Pathology is the study of diseases. When doctors study biopsy samples under a microscope it’s called pathology. More specifically, histopathology is the study of the tissue samples and cytopathology, often called cytology, is the study of fluid samples.