Understanding the Symptoms and Diagnosing of Malignant Mesothelioma

The first symptoms of the disease appear rather late and are not very specific, which often delays the diagnosis. For example, there is an alteration of the general condition of the patient (loss of appetite, significant weight loss, intense fatigue, and so on) but also chest pain, dry cough, and breathing disorders. Some patients complain of lower back pain. When the tumor is in the peritoneum (sac that surrounds the abdomen), the patient has abdominal pain, nausea or vomiting, or even a bowel obstruction.

Diagnosing pleural mesothelioma

A diagnosis is based, first of all, on the clinical examination of the patient. This includes asking the patient a series of questions that help the physician determine if the symptoms are consistent with a mesothelioma diagnosis. Some symptoms may point to malignant pleural mesothelioma but, actually, have another diagnosis. Searching for the reasons of exposure is also necessary.

If a doctor suspects Malignant Mesothelioma, he or she will order medical imaging examinations (radiography, CT, etc.). Diagnostic confirmation is done by pleural biopsies during a thoracoscopy (a procedure that allows the healthcare professional to examine the patient’s thoracic cavity using an endoscope).

What are the most frequently asked questions?

  • At what stage is the cancer?
  • What are the possible therapeutic approaches in this particular case?
  • Can the patient have surgery?
  • What are the risks of an operation?
  • What are the possible postoperative complications?
  • Is the patient healthy enough to undergo an extra-pleural pleuro-pneumonectomy?
  • What are the other options, apart from surgery?
  • What treatments can the patient take to improve his or her quality of life?
  • What type of monitoring should be put in place?
  • Are there clinical trials available and is the patient eligible?

There are also plenty of other specific questions that the patient should ask themselves and their physician.

Curing mesothelioma

Extra-pleural pleuro-pneumonectomy is the only truly curative treatment. But it remains limited to a very small number of carefully selected patients. This is a radical procedure that involves the removal of the lung, pleura, pericardium, and part of the diaphragm.

During surgery, the pericardium and diaphragm are reconstructed in a specific material. To be selected, patients must meet a number of criteria and have a lung and heart that is able to withstand the procedure.