Should I see a mesothelioma specialist? | Cancer Research UK
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Should I see a mesothelioma specialist?

Men and women discussing mesothelioma

This page tells you about the guidelines that GPs have in the UK to help them send the right people for pleural mesothelioma tests. There is information below about

 

A quick guide to what's on this page

Should I see a mesothelioma specialist?

It can be very difficult for GPs to decide who may have a suspected cancer and who has something much more minor. The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) have produced guidelines for GPs to help them decide which symptoms need an urgent referral to a specialist.

Who needs an urgent chest X-ray

The guidelines say your GP should send you for an urgent chest X-ray (within 2 weeks), if you are aged 40 or over with the following symptoms

  • Changes in the shape of your fingers and nails (finger clubbing)
  • Chest symptoms such as shortness of breath, chest pain, cough or tiredness (fatigue) that could be signs of lung disease

Who needs a chest X-ray

The guidelines say your GP should offer you a chest X-ray if you are aged 40 or over and have 2 or more of the following symptoms, or if you have 1 or more of the following symptoms and have ever smoked or have been exposed to asbestos

  • A cough
  • Tiredness (fatigue)
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain
  • Weight loss
  • Loss of appetite

Urgent referral to a specialist

According to the guidelines, you should get an urgent referral to a specialist within 2 weeks

  • If the results of your chest X-ray suggest you might have mesothelioma

If you have symptoms and you do not think your GP is taking them seriously enough, you could print out this page and take it along to an appointment.

 

CR PDF Icon You can view and print the quick guides for all the pages in the About mesothelioma section.

 

 

UK referral guidelines

It can be very difficult for GPs to decide who may have a suspected cancer and who may have something much more minor that will go away on its own. The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) have produced guidelines for GPs in the UK to help them decide which patients need to be seen urgently by a specialist. 

There are no guidelines for seeing a specialist for peritoneal mesothelioma. If you know that you have been exposed to asbestos in the past, and have unexplained abdominal symptoms, you should see your GP.

Seeing a specialist

With many symptoms, it is perfectly right that your GP should ask you to wait to see if they get better or respond to treatment such as antibiotics. If GPs referred everyone who came to see them to a specialist immediately, the system would get jammed and people needing urgent appointments wouldn't be able to get them. But there are certain symptoms that could be due to pleural mesothelioma and mean that your GP should send you for an urgent chest X-ray or refer you to a specialist.

 

Urgent chest X-ray

You should have an urgent chest X-ray (within 2 weeks) if you are aged 40 or over and have

  • Changes in the shape of your fingers and nails called finger clubbing
  • Chest symptoms that could indicate lung disease, such as a cough, shortness of breath or chest pain

If the chest X-ray shows anything abnormal, you should get an appointment to see a specialist. You should ideally see a specialist within two weeks of going to your GP.

 

Chest X-ray

Your GP should offer you a chest X-ray if you are aged 40 or over and have 2 or more of the following symptoms, or have 1 or more of the following symptoms and have ever smoked or been exposed to asbestos

  • A cough
  • Tiredness (fatigue)
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain
  • Weight loss
  • Loss of appetite
 

Guidelines for urgent referral

You should ideally see a specialist urgently if you have been exposed to asbestos in the past and have recently developed chest pain and shortness of breath. According to NICE guidelines, an urgent referral means you should see a specialist within 2 weeks of seeing your GP.

 

What to do if you are still worried

If you are concerned that your GP is not taking your symptoms as seriously as you think they should, you could print this page and take it along to an appointment. Ask your GP to talk it through with you and then you may be able to decide together whether you need to see a specialist and if so, how soon.

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Updated: 12 November 2015