Mesothelioma Misdiagnosis – Get a Second Opinion
Mesothelioma is a serious diagnosis with costly treatment implications. It is also a very rare type of cancer, which makes misdiagnosis more common. There are other, less serious illnesses that can explain the symptoms you may be having.
How Can Mesothelioma Be Misdiagnosed?
Mesothelioma is a cancer of the thin membrane linings around many of the body’s organs. This cancer is caused by the inhalation or ingestion of asbestos, which is a harmful mineral that is toxic when you breathe in its dust or fibers. Mesothelioma takes a long time to develop, with symptoms gradually showing up over time. In some cases, it can take 20-50 years to develop.
Asbestos exposure causes tumors to form in the body. Depending on where those tumors are, doctors make their diagnosis. This is why many diagnoses can be wrong, attributing your symptoms to something far less serious.
What Are Some Common Misdiagnoses?
Pleural mesothelioma, which affects the lining of the lungs and chest, is often misdiagnosed as influenza, pneumonia, emphysema, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), lung cancer, or other respiratory conditions. Since all of these conditions have to do with breathing and lung issues, it could be easy to attribute these symptoms to any one of these diseases instead of mesothelioma.
Peritoneal mesothelioma is a rare type of mesothelioma that impacts the thin lining of the abdomen. This type of mesothelioma is specifically caused by the ingestion of asbestos. This type of cancer has been misdiagnosed as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), a hernia, gallstones, ovarian cancer, as well as other abdominal cancers. Again, since the location is so specific, there is room for error when it comes to diagnosis.
Pericardial mesothelioma is also a rare type of mesothelioma that impacts the thin membrane surrounding the heart. There are many common heart issues since our heart works harder than any organ in our bodies. This type of mesothelioma has been misdiagnosed as heart disease, coronary artery disease, congestive heart failure, metastatic lung cancer, and angiosarcoma.
If you are diagnosed with any of the above conditions, but also have a history of asbestos exposure, it’s important to see a mesothelioma specialist to rule out the possibility that you actually have mesothelioma.
What To Do If You Think You Have Been Misdiagnosed
If you believe you may have been misdiagnosed because you think your symptoms are associated with asbestos exposure from your past, you will want to seek a second opinion from another doctor, specifically a mesothelioma physician if you can.
A mesothelioma specialist can take a look at your scans and imaging from your tests again, to give their expert opinion on if you have the disease.
Sometimes, the disease is not misdiagnosed but the stage the disease is in is a little trickier to determine. Getting the stage of your mesothelioma correct is important because that determines the course of treatment options.
Some treatments are only available to stage 1 and 2 mesothelioma patients and trials are very specific, so it’s very important to know what stage your cancer is in.
How Is Mesothelioma Diagnosed In the First Place?
The process of diagnosing mesothelioma can be long and tedious and it requires a lot of testing. Most often, you will start with x-rays which will help look for tumors in the body.
If something unusual is seen in the images, you will have to do CT scans, MRIs, or PET scans. These tests allow for clearer imaging, which allows doctors to look deeper and in more detail.
If tumors are found, the next step is to take a biopsy. A biopsy is when a doctor surgically removes several cells and tests them to see if they are cancerous. This is the surest way to a mesothelioma diagnosis.
Other tests will likely include blood work or genetic tests.
Treatment After Diagnosis
It is so important to have a correct diagnosis for any ailment you have, but definitely when the culprit is mesothelioma. This rare cancer is incredibly aggressive, spreading quickly and without a known cure. Mesothelioma requires aggressive treatment.
Whether you will be undergoing chemotherapy or other forms of cancer treatment, the earlier you catch cancer, the better chance the treatment has to make a significant difference in your prognosis. Patients who participate in chemotherapy or some invasive surgeries increase their life expectancy anywhere from several months up to about five years on average.
Seek Medical Consultation
If you have been diagnosed with a serious illness that could have been misdiagnosed and could be mesothelioma, it is time to reach out to a mesothelioma specialist now to get a second opinion so you don’t have to wonder if you were diagnosed correctly.
If you haven’t been diagnosed with anything yet but you are having serious symptoms and also have been exposed to asbestos in the past, you should see a doctor soon to express your concerns. Be sure to mention your asbestos exposure so they know your history.
Remember, second hand asbestos exposure is also common. Even if you haven’t been in contact with asbestos directly, someone who lived in your home could have brought home the harmful fibers and dust on their clothes, unknowingly putting you at risk.