Mesothelioma Biopsies

A mesothelioma diagnosis can leave you reeling and wondering what your next step may be. For most, the next step after diagnosis will be a biopsy. Since mesothelioma occurs in the thin layer of tissue that covers internal organs, a biopsy can be a bit more invasive.

Knowing what a mesothelioma biopsy entails can help give you peace of mind and be prepared for your procedure.

Mesothelioma Biopsy

During a biopsy, the surgeon takes a sample of the offending tissue or fluid and delivers it to a pathologist for analysis. While imaging and blood tests can give doctors a good idea whether or not you have mesothelioma, a biopsy is the only way to ensure that the diagnosis is correct.

There are two biopsy procedures used for mesothelioma diagnosis: VATS and FNA biopsies.

Video-Assisted Thoracoscopic Surgery (VATS)

This is an endoscopic biopsy procedure that allows surgeons to use a thin, tube-like instrument equipped with a light and a camera to look around inside the patient’s body without making a major incision. The tool, or endoscope, may also be equipped to take tissue samples as well so the whole process is simple and non-invasive.

VATS does require general anesthesia but is much less invasive with a quick recovery time and has a lower risk of complications.

Fine-Needle Aspiration (FNA)

Since mesothelioma tends to be in hard to reach places, doctors and surgeons sometimes turn to procedures like FNA to extract the cells. FNA uses a long, hollow needle that’s attached to a syringe to remove sample cells for later analysis.

This procedure is unique in that it doesn’t require the patient to be put under general anesthesia or be kept in the hospital overnight.

Needle biopsies are guided by ultrasound imaging and typically only require local numbing so patients can finish the procedure and go home at the end of the day.

Other Biopsy Procedures

Surgeons on a journey to accurately diagnose mesothelioma rely mostly on thoracoscopy procedures to get the most up to date information. There can be a few other procedures used to diagnose the disease.

Draining Fluid Buildup

Thoracentesis is a procedure that uses a hollow needle to pull fluid from the pleural lining around the lungs and then send it off to be analyzed. This procedure is used not just for analysis but to relieve pain and keep fluid away from the lungs which could weaken function. 

Tumor-Removing Surgery

Thinking about a tumor or removing one can be daunting but many times surgeons turn to this procedure to remove as much of cancer as possible. This gives them plenty of material to analyze and this may eliminate the need for more surgery later if the tumor is proven to be malignant.

Risk Factors for Mesothelioma

Several mesothelioma risk factors stand out as major conditions for cancer to form. The first is exposure to asbestos or even living with someone who works with asbestos. You may also be conditioned to develop mesothelioma if you have a family history of cancer or you’ve had radiation therapy to your chest.