Mesothelioma

Having tests

Mesothelioma

Having tests

Not all symptoms are caused by cancer. Your GP or specialist will send you for tests to check what is causing your symptoms.

Your doctors should explain why you are having the tests and what they involve.

Mesothelioma is often diagnosed at an advanced stage. The number of tests performed may depend on how well the person is and whether the test results will affect their treatment options.

What you need to know

Reasons for tests

Your GP will examine you and send you for tests before you see a specialist. These initial tests are to see if your symptoms are caused by cancer or by something else.

If you do have a cancer, the specialist you see will probably send you for tests to find out more about it. This includes finding out the type of cells the cancer started in and whether it has spread.

Initial tests for mesothelioma

The GP will talk to you about your symptoms, examine you and order some tests.

Initial tests for mesothelioma may include:

  • blood tests
  • chest X-ray or abdominal X-ray
  • CT scan.

Further tests for mesothelioma

If your GP thinks you may have mesothelioma they will refer you to see a specialist. The specialist will arrange more tests to confirm the diagnosis and see whether the mesothelioma has spread.

Further tests for pleural mesothelioma may include:

  • MRI scan
  • PET scan or PET/CT scan
  • thoracentesis
  • thoracoscopy
  • mediastinoscopy
  • endobronchial ultrasound
  • biopsy.

As well as helping with diagnosis, some of these procedures are also used to relieve symptoms. For example, removing fluid from around the lung during a thoracentesis can reduce breathlessness.

Further tests for peritoneal mesothelioma may include:

  • MRI scan
  • PET scan or PET/CT scan
  • paracentesis
  • laparoscopy
  • biopsy.

Biopsies for mesothelioma

A biopsy is when a sample of tissue is taken from the area that might be mesothelioma, and a pathologist looks at the tissue under a microscope to see if cancer cells are present.

Mesothelioma can be difficult to diagnose, and it is important to get enough tissue samples to do this.

Fluid taken during thoracentesis or paracentesis can be tested for cancer cells but a biopsy is usually needed to be sure of the diagnosis.

Biopsies for pleural mesothelioma include:

  • CT-guided core biopsy
  • biopsy during thoracoscopy, also known as video-assisted thoracoscopic surgery (VATS). 

Types of biopsies for peritoneal mesothelioma include:

  • CT-guided core biopsy
  • biopsy during laparoscopy.

What to ask or talk about

Preparing for tests

Going for tests can make some people nervous, but knowing what to expect can help.

Your GP or specialist should tell you why you need each test and what it involves. Use our checklists to help you know what to ask.

Sometimes you need to contact the place where you are having the test for more information. This can include how to prepare for the test, how much it will cost and what you will get back from Medicare and your private health fund.

Ask how long it will take before you hear the results of the test.

Checklists

Use our checklists to find helpful tips or questions to ask.

Next steps

Getting test results

It is normal to feel anxious when you are waiting for test results. 

Your GP or specialist should tell you when the results will be ready and how you will find out about them. Usually you need to make an appointment to get the results.

It is a good idea to take someone with you when you go for this appointment.

Where to get help

There are people you can talk to for more information or support.

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