Misdiagnosis of Mesothelioma Cancer
It is well known among medical professionals that it is difficult to accurately diagnose mesothelioma. The disease is frequently misdiagnosed as other more common and less deadly disorders. When this happens, patients lose the time that could have been spent in treatment.
Asbestos cancer takes decades to develop. When it does, there’s usually little reason for a doctor to think the disease is mesothelioma. The patient is usually older and was long since exposed to the deadly mineral. So the common symptoms, including a lingering cough, shortness of breath and chest pains, are diagnosed as a less dangerous disease like pneumonia.
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Of the three main types of asbestos cancer -- pleural, peritoneal and pericardial -- there are several common symptoms and misdiagnoses:
Pleural Mesothelioma Symptoms - Shortness of breath, chest pains, fever, fatigue, weight loss, pleural effusion, lingering cough.
Misdiagnosis - Asthma, pneumonia, lung cancer, emphysema, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
Peritoneal Mesothelioma Symptoms - Abnormal fluid buildup, weight loss, loss of appetite.
Misdiagnosis - Lung cancer, hernia, stomach cancer, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
Pericardial Mesothelioma Symptoms - Chest pains, irregular heartbeat, difficulty breathing.
Misdiagnosis - Pericarditis, pleural effusion, heart murmur.
Getting accurate testing for asbestos-related cancer
Often physicians, especially those who have never had to deal with mesothelioma, will order a battery of tests to determine what is the cause of the symptoms. A common one is a thoracentesis, which allows doctors to remove a sample from the pleura space in the lungs. While this test is effective in diagnosing a cancer in the pleural space, it is not accurate enough to determine if mesothelioma exists. It also cannot tell what cells types are involved (epithelial, sarcomatoid or biphasic), which is also important when diagnosing asbestos cancer.
Instead, researchers have found that certain tests are better than others for diagnosing asbestos cancer and patients who have a greater chance at developing the disease:
Mesomark - This simple blood test is one of the most accurate ways to diagnose the disease. With the use of blood biomarkers, the test can also be used to predict the disease progress. It is the first FDA approved blood test for mesothelioma.
SOMAmer panel - This test also uses blood biomarkers as an early detection tool. It has been found to be up to 93 percent accurate.
Human MPF Elisa Kit - This blood test checks for the presence of a soluble protein produced by mesothelin in the blood.
Mesothelioma patients must get fast and accurate treatment for the best chance at recovery.
ABC News. Misdiagnosis of Cancer. Retrieved from http://abcnews.go.com/Primetime/Story?id=132213&page=1
U.S. National Library of Medicine. Mesomark: a potential test for malignant pleural mesothelioma. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17289801