Understanding Your Mesothelioma Diagnosis

If you or a loved one has received a mesothelioma diagnosis, it is understandable to be confused and afraid. Your doctor will be able to answer many of your questions; you can expect to be transitioned to a hospital or treatment center that specializes in cancers like mesothelioma, where information about the illness and its various treatments will be readily accessible.

After being diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma, you will most likely receive much of your future care from an oncologist – a physician who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of cancer. Waiting for an initial meeting with your new physician, even though it should be expedited, can feel like the longest and most anxiety-ridden wait of your life.

To help patients caught in that difficult state of limbo, we have created the following FAQ guide for understanding the mesothelioma diagnosis and what to expect in the coming months of treatment:

Q: I was told that I have a type of mesothelioma called ‘epithelioid’ – what exactly does this mean?

A: Mesothelioma can consist of one oftwo cell types or a combination of both. If both types present in the same patient, this is referred to as biphasic mesothelioma. Otherwise, patients are diagnosed with either epithelioid or sarcomatoid mesothelioma. Epithelioid is the most common type, making up more than 70 percent of all cases of mesothelioma in the U.S. It is typically considered the less aggressive form of the illness, as epithelioid cells tend to grow less rapidly, resulting in a better likelihood of effective treatment. Between the three types, epithelioid is usually given the most promising prognosis – followed by biphasic and sarcomatoid respectively.

Q: Is it possible to be misdiagnosed with mesothelioma? How often does this occur, if at all?

A: Though possible, a misdiagnosis of mesothelioma is unlikely. This is because, in order for a conclusive mesothelioma diagnosis to be reached, a biopsy is almost always required. Preliminary screening techniques for mesothelioma, including various forms of imaging technology, can be inaccurate in determining exact types of cell growth and lead to ambiguous or inconclusive results. In a biopsy, however, actual tissue or fluid is sampled from the affected area and examined directly – resulting in definitive and accurate results in almost all cases. Barring a lab error or other anomaly, a diagnosis that is reached from a biopsy is generally considered foolproof and conclusive.

Q: How do I know which treatment option is best for me?

A: The treatment options available will be narrowed by the exact nature of your mesothelioma diagnosis. Depending upon the stage of the cancer, as well as the cell type, some treatments may not be suitable or will be unlikely to provide optimal effectiveness. For instance, later stage illnesses are usually not eligible for surgery because the cancer has spread beyond a localized region. Similarly, sarcomatoid cell mesothelioma is not often treated with chemotherapy because it has been clinically shown to have very limited to unsuccessful results. Your doctor will help you understand the specifics of your diagnosis and decide which malignant mesothelioma treatment, or combination of treatments, will be best for you.


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