One of the problems with mesothelioma is it is easy for doctors to misdiagnose it. There is a report that one woman with mesothelioma was even misdiagnosed twice. (ABC.net.au). This aggressive cancer caused by asbestos exposure can appear to be many other types of cancer – both in symptoms and at the microscopic level.
Getting an accurate diagnosis of mesothelioma from the beginning is vital; if mesothelioma gets to stages III mesothelioma or stage IV mesothelioma and spreads beyond the initial tumor site, the odds of living more than a few months are slim. (mesothelioma.net)
Mesothelioma can be misdiagnosed by physicians in many ways. Because early diagnosis is essential for the best prognosis, it is wise to seek a second opinion, especially if you have been exposed to asbestos.
Why Mesothelioma Is Hard to Diagnose
This cancer is known to be hard to diagnose. One of the reasons is the long latency period between asbestos exposure and the diagnosis of the disease. The typical latency period for mesothelioma is at least 10 years and up to 40 years.
Asbestos fibers stuck in the mesothelium around the lungs cause scarring and inflammation over time. Symptoms may not appear for decades. Diagnosing mesothelioma after so much time has passed since exposure is difficult.
The symptoms also can make it hard for a doctor to reach an accurate diagnosis. When a physician sees a patient with chest pain, cough, and trouble breathing, there are many common conditions that the doctor may consider, such as pneumonia, flu, or another type of cancer. It is important to remember that mesothelioma is rare, with only 3,000 cases diagnosed per year. Doctors tend to look at the more common causes of illness, not the rare ones. (NIH.gov)
Further, even detailed diagnostic tests such as an MRI, CT, or PET scan cannot definitely diagnose asbestos cancer. Mesothelioma tumors look like lung cancer tumors. Even getting a biopsy of the tumors does not always work because mesothelioma tumors look like other cancer tumors. If the biopsy has too few mesothelioma cells, your medical team could give you the wrong diagnosis.
What Are the Most Common Misdiagnoses?
Mesothelioma is a rare disease and hard to diagnose, so it is frequently diagnosed as another condition. If you have a regular, dry cough, shortness of breath, and chest pains, it can lead to your doctor misdiagnosing your mesothelioma. Also, stomach upset, abdominal pain, cramping, and diarrhea that are signs of peritoneal mesothelioma also can be misdiagnosed as many things. (rarediseases.org)
Doctors often misdiagnose mesothelioma as a mere upper respiratory infection. It also can be misdiagnosed as:
- Chronic pulmonary obstructive disorder
- Various types of lung cancer
Peritoneal mesothelioma may be misdiagnosed as the following:
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Ulcerative colitis
- Ovarian cancer
- Heart failure or heart disease
It is not just possible to misdiagnose mesothelioma. It is possible for your healthcare provider to misdiagnose your mesothelioma stage, which can be disastrous. Staging is determined by how much the original tumor has grown and how much it has spread around the body.
Mesothelioma is diagnosed as stage I, II, III, or IV based on various criteria. Doctors will use imaging scans, blood tests, and biopsies to diagnose the stage of your cancer. But many tests can be imperfect and misleading. It is easy to miss part of a tumor that has spread. If your mesothelioma is more advanced than your doctor thinks, you may not get the right treatments, and your life could be much shorter.
Proper Diagnose Is Essential for Treatment
Getting an accurate diagnosis for any serious health condition is critical to get the proper treatment. With mesothelioma, a delay in treatment can be fatal, so the right diagnosis as soon as possible is important. While mesothelioma is always hard to treat, the sooner you get an accurate diagnosis, the better.
Essentially, an early and accurate mesothelioma diagnosis provides more treatment options. For example, if you are diagnosed in stage I or II before the tumors have spread beyond the initial site, you may be a candidate for surgery. In the typical mesothelioma surgery, the doctor will remove all visible traces of the tumors. Then they may follow this treatment up with chemotherapy or radiation to kill all invisible cancer cells in the area.
If the cancer is misdiagnosed, your mesothelioma may spread to stages III or IV when surgery is usually out of the question. At that point, palliative treatment to ease your symptoms and pain may be your only choice.
Consider a Second Opinion
If you think you were exposed to asbestos in your job, you definitely should consider getting a second opinion when diagnosed with any type of respiratory or abdominal condition. A recent clinical study looked at the rates and outcomes for second medical opinions. In approximately 15% of cases, the medical diagnosis was changed and treatment was changed in 37% of cases.
You might feel it is a put down to your doctor to get another opinion. But this is not true. Mesothelioma is very difficult to diagnose, and many doctors are unfamiliar with it. Mesothelioma is serious and usually fatal, so getting a second opinion could extend your life by months or even years.
What Do Mesothelioma Specialists Look For?
Mesothelioma doctors and pathologists who have studied mesothelioma in detail are better at seeing mesothelioma symptoms vs. those of lung cancer and other health problems. Your specialist will review your medical history, exposure to asbestos, physical examination, imaging scans, histology, genetic tests, and biopsies to determine if you have mesothelioma.
The bottom line is you should get a second opinion on your diagnosis if you have any question in your mind. It never hurts to have another doctor look you over and see if you have another health problem. If you do have mesothelioma, you could extend your life significantly.
Get Mesothelioma Legal Help Immediately
With over $30 billion available for victims through the Asbestos Trust Funds, you could be entitled to financial compensations without ever filing a lawsuit. Mesothelioma & Lung Cancer victims qualify immediately. Complete the form or call us toll-free (800) 352-0871.