Tests for mesothelioma

You usually have a number of tests to check whether your symptoms are due to mesothelioma. 

Mesothelioma can be difficult to diagnose because many different types of cells can make up a mesothelioma tumour.

Sometimes it can be very difficult for a pathologist (doctor who looks at cells under a microscope) to decide if cells or the tissue sample from your lungs or tummy are mesothelioma. The cells often look similar to other types of cancer cells, such as other lung cancers or ovarian cancer.

Once mesothelioma is diagnosed, you have further tests to find out how big the tumour is and whether it has spread. This tells you the stage of your cancer. The stage of your cancer is important. It helps you and your doctor decide on the best treatment. You might need to have surgery to be sure of the stage.

X-rays of chest and tummy

A chest x-ray can show up fluid collecting in the lining of your lung (the pleura) and an x-ray of your tummy (abdomen) might show up a swelling or fluid collecting in the tummy. You usually have both for mesothelioma.

Ultrasound for peritoneal mesothelioma

Ultrasound scans use high frequency sound waves to create a picture of a part of the body. You may have an abdominal ultrasound scan to check for peritoneal mesothelioma.

CT scan for mesothelioma

A CT scan can show abnormal swellings in the lining of your lungs (pleura) or abdomen (peritoneum). Find out how a CT scan can help to diagnose mesothelioma and what happens during the test.

Fluid drainage for lungs and tummy

Fluid build up happens because cancer cells make the pleura or peritoneum inflamed. Find out how your doctor might drain fluid from around your lungs or tummy (abdomen) to check for signs of cancer.

Thoracoscopy and pleural biopsy

You might have this small operation to check for signs of pleural mesothelioma. See how you have it.

Laparoscopy and biopsy

You might have this small operation to check for signs of peritoneal mesothelioma and take samples (biopsies) of any abnormal areas.

PET-CT scan for mesothelioma

A PET-CT scan combines a CT scan and a PET scan. It gives detailed information about your cancer.

Bronchoscopy and ultrasound (endobronchial ultrasound) for mesothelioma

A bronchoscopy and ultrasound test is also called an endobronchial ultrasound scan (EBUS). You may have this test if scans show that the lymph nodes around your lung are enlarged and to help stage mesothelioma.

Endoscopic ultrasound for mesothelioma

An endoscopic ultrasound (EUS) combines ultrasound and endoscopy to look at the areas around your food pipe and to check whether mesothelioma has spread into the lymph nodes.

Mediastinoscopy for mesothelioma

You might have a mediastinoscopy to see if cancer cells have spread into the lymph nodes around the wind pipe.

Last reviewed: 
26 Jul 2021
Next review due: 
26 Jul 2024
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