In determining if a patient has asbestos cancer, there are definitive tests and reports that doctors depend on. When done accurately, these tests and reports allow physicians to precisely determine a diagnosis and the best treatment.
A biopsy is considered to be the mesothelioma-diagnosis gold standard. A biopsy is a tissue sample taken from the body for a closer laboratory examination. Most pleural mesothelioma patients undergo a thoracoscopy.
Thoracoscopy - Also called an open pleural biopsy, this allows doctors to see the pleural space and remove several samples. The most common type of thoracoscopy is VATS or video-assisted thoracoscopic surgery. Some researchers have found that VATS procedures can accurately diagnose asbestos cancer up to 98 percent of the time.
A thoracoscopy is a minimally invasive procedure that utilizes several small incisions in the chest. A small camera, called an endoscope, is inserted, allowing the doctor to see any abnormalities. It is especially useful because it allows physicians to take multiple tissue samples and get an accurate histology report. By determining the histology (or cell type), physicians can best determine the course of treatment.
In some cases, other types of biopsies must be used:
- Needle Biopsy - A thin needle is inserted into the suspected area for a small sample. Also called a fine-needle biopsy.
- Thoracotomy - This invasive surgery is aimed at giving doctors full access to the interior chest area, including the lungs, heart and diaphragm.
- Thoracentesis - Doctors use a needle to extract air and fluids between the lung and the pleural space. While this is commonly used to treat conditions that include a pleural effusion, this procedure is also used in biopsies.
Pathology is the study of a disease and its causes. A pathologist is the doctor who reviews tissue samples, determines what type of disease is present and writes detailed a report about the findings. A pathologist report may include the following information:
- Clinical history and personal information
- Description of the tissue samples and the origins
- Immunohistochemical staining analysis
- A diagnosis based on the most current information available
The pathology report will also contain critical information about the extent and progression of the disease. Pathology allows physicians to see the growth patterns of the disease and the cell types involved.
Many patients use their pathology reports to take a next important step - getting a second opinion. It is vital that any patient who has been diagnosed with asbestos cancer seek a second opinion from a skilled mesothelioma specialist. This is particularly true of patients who live in rural areas where a mesothelioma diagnosis is rare. If you were diagnosed with lung cancer or any lung or abdominal related cancer and you’ve been exposed to asbestos, seek a second opinion today. Many of the top medical centers in the country will offer second-opinion consultations for challenging or difficult cases, including asbestos-related cancers. The medical centers will help confirm a diagnosis, offer treatment options and discuss clinical trials. It can give you peace of mind, more treatment options and quite possibly improve your survival rate.
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If you’ve been diagnosed with mesothelioma and are wondering where to turn, contact our patient advocates now. They can help you decipher your pathology report, fine a specialist in your area or set up a second opinion.
WebMD. What is a Biopsy? Retrieved from http://www.webmd.com/cancer/what-is-a-biopsy
Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. Mesothelioma. Retrieved from http://www.dana-farber.org/Adult-Care/Treatment-and-Support/Mesothelioma/How-We-Diagnose-Mesothelioma.aspx