Diagnosing mesothelioma is often difficult because the symptoms are similar to those of several other conditions. Mayo Clinic has an experienced staff and the latest technologies for making an accurate diagnosis.
Your doctor will start with a thorough review of your medical history, including a history of personal or secondhand asbestos exposure. Other possible risk factors your doctor may discuss with you include childhood vaccinations, past illnesses and treatments, and family history of mesothelioma.
Your doctor will determine which of these imaging tests you need: X-rays, computerized tomography (CT) scan, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or a positron emission tomography (PET) scan. In tests that involve radiation, specialists carefully monitor doses to avoid the risk of radiation overexposure.
Lung function tests, also known as pulmonary function tests, measure your lung function and reserve. They include spirometry testing, in which you breathe into a tube attached to a machine.
The most definitive test for diagnosing mesothelioma is to remove a tissue sample (biopsy) for microscopic examination by a pathologist. Your doctors will choose the right biopsy procedure for you.
Once a diagnosis is made, doctors can determine the stage (progression) of the cancer by using imaging to determine its location and to select the most effective treatment. The progression may range from stage I, localized cancer, to stage IV, advanced cancer that has spread extensively.