Mesothelioma is a rare cancer that develops from the mutation of cells in the mesothelium—the protective lining of several internal organs.
Mesothelioma cancer is primarily caused by prolonged exposure to asbestos. Asbestos, when contacted, propels cancerous filaments into the air. These filaments, over a period of time, stick to the mesothelium. Over time, cancerous tumors form, which have the potential to rapidly metastasize. The bulk of mesothelioma patients, therefore, were at some point, previously employed in industries that utilized asbestos or worked with the fiber in some capacity.
Although there are several forms of mesothelioma cancer, the majority of cases develop in the internal wall of the chest cavity or the lining of the lungs. Common symptoms attached to mesothelioma will include: shortness of breath, stemming from a build-up of fluid between the abdomen and lungs, weight loss and painful coughing.
One of the primary characteristics—and the major reason why the disease is so deadly—stems from its relatively innocuous symptoms. Mesothelioma cancer is nearly impossible to detect in their early stages. The difficulty attached to diagnosing mesothelioma stems from the condition’s dormant symptoms. A mesothelioma patient will often notice symptoms 15-20 years after the initial infection takes place.
Similar to other forms of cancer, mesothelioma is categorized by stage. As the disease shifts through stages, mesothelioma cancer becomes more deadly. This insidious nature is paired with mesothelioma’s inconspicuousness to create a deadly disease. Mesothelioma patients typically die within 6 months to 1 year of diagnosis.
Frequently, mesothelioma cancers will not be diagnosed until the tumors metastasize to the vital organs of the body (such as the heart or lungs). When mesothelioma reaches stage III or stage IV it is ruled inoperable. If mesothelioma cancer, by chance, is caught before the disease spreads, curable treatments, such as surgery, may be suggested to extract the malignant tumors. Furthermore, a number of palliative surgeries are administered to mitigate the suffering associated with mesothelioma cancer.
If you have worked with asbestos in the past you should contact your medical professional to set-up a physical examination. You should schedule this appointment if you feel healthy or do not notice any symptoms. Upon evaluation, the medical professional may opt to have an MRI. These images will be requested if the doctor believes that you may be susceptible to mesothelioma cancer. The MRI is an essential tool for diagnosing mesothelioma cancer.
Mesothelioma Diagnosis: CT scan
Mesothelioma cancer is a rare medical condition that typically forms in the mesothelium, which is a network of protective tissues that shield several internal organs, including the heart and lungs.
Mesothelioma is primarily caused by prolonged exposure to asbestos fibers. Asbestos is a naturally occurring element that, when contacted, propels carcinogens into the air. When inhaled, these airborne filaments, stick to a human’s mesothelium. Over time, the carcinogens eat away at the protective tissues to and promote the formation of cancerous tumors. These tumors have the potential to rapidly metastasize and spread to other organs of the human body. The bulk of mesothelioma sufferers, therefore at some point, were previously employed in jobs where asbestos-containing materials were utilized.
Although there are multiple forms of mesothelioma cancer, the majority of mesothelioma cases formulate in the lining of the lungs or the internal wall of the chest cavity. The most common symptoms attached to mesothelioma cancer include: shortness of breath (this stems from a build-up of fluid between the lungs and abdomen), unexpected and severe weight loss and painful/persistent coughing.
One of the primary characteristics associated with mesothelioma cancer, and the major reason why the disease is so deadly, derives from its innocuous symptoms. Mesothelioma cancers are nearly impossible to detect in the disease’s early stages. The problems with accurate diagnosis not only stem from the cellular structure of the disease (mutated mesothelioma cells are uniform to other cancerous cells), but also from the disease’s lack of symptoms. Mesothelioma symptoms only become observable when the disease reaches its 3rd or 4th stages. Mesothelioma patients often notice symptoms 15-20 years after the initial infection.
Similar to other cancers, mesothelioma is categorized by stage. As the cancer progresses into more advanced stages it becomes more aggressive and more dangerous. This insidious characteristic is paired with the cancer’s inconspicuousness to form one of the deadliest diseases on the planet. Those who are infected with mesothelioma cancer will typically die within 6 months to 1 year of diagnosis.
In a number of cases, mesothelioma cancers are not diagnosed until the tumors spread to the vital organs of the body. When mesothelioma cancer advances to stage III or stage IV it is often deemed inoperable. If the cancer, by chance, is detected before it metastasizes, curable mesothelioma treatments, such as surgery, may be administered to remove the malignant tumors. If the disease is not detected in its beginning stages (which are more common) palliative treatment mesothelioma treatment options, including surgeries, may be recommended to mitigate the suffering associated with mesothelioma cancers.
If you have worked or are working with asbestos fibers or asbestos-containing materials you must immediately contact your doctor to schedule a physical examination. This appointment must be made regardless of how you feel; remember, mesothelioma cancer will not be tangible during the disease’s first 10-15 years. During your physical examination, if your doctor has inkling that you have contracted mesothelioma cancer, he/she will invariably photograph your chest cavity by utilizing a CT scan. The CT scan is a preliminary image; if the CT reveals any irregularities the doctor will order an MRI to further inspect your insides.
CT Scans to Diagnose Mesothelioma
Medical imaging plays a crucial role in the evaluation of malignant mesothelioma cancers. Not only does imaging help a medical professional diagnose mesothelioma cancer, but it will also illuminate as to how far the cancer has metastasized.
Computed tomography is the ideal imaging modality utilized for the accurate diagnosing and staging of mesothelioma cancer. That being said, CT scans, with regards to mesothelioma diagnosis, is severely limited when compared to other imaging tools, such as MRI and PET scans.
The CT scan is the primary imaging modality used to evaluate indicators of mesothelioma cancers. Key findings from a CT scan will suggest mesothelioma cancers include nodular pleural thickening, unilateral pleural effusion and interlobar fissure thickening. In most instances, the CT scan will look for these irregularities. Asymmetrical growth often leads to tumoral encasement of the lungs. When this occurs, the cells will transform into a rindlike shape. The CT scan for mesothelioma diagnosis will look for these alterations.
In addition to shifts in cellular size and shape, a CT scan for mesothelioma diagnosis will notice calcified pleural plaques in roughly 20% of patients with malignant mesothelioma cancer.
Malignant mesothelioma cancer is acutely aggressive with frequent invasion of the chest cavity and dia-phragm. Chest cavity involvement will manifest as a termination of extra-pleural fat planes, displacement of ribs, invasion of intercostal muscles and destruction of the bones. However, fluctuations in the interface between the patient’s chest wall and the cancerous tumor is not a reliable predictor of chest wall invasions.
As stated before, a CT scan will be used as precautionary step in diagnosing mesothelioma cancer. That being said, the CT scan will only be ordered after a chest x-ray is taken (The CT scan will be ordered before MRI’s or PET scans). Therefore, the chest x-ray serves as the foundation for diagnosing mesothelioma cancer.
The diagnosis of severe respiratory conditions almost always begins with chest X-rays scans. A chest x-ray of a prospective mesothelioma patient with mesothelioma cancer may reveal irregular thickening of the pleura—the thin shield that cushions and protects the lungs. The CT scan for mesothelioma cancer may also reveal pleural calcifications (mineral deposits), an accumulation of fluid in the chest cavity and lungs (pleural effusion) and the lowering of lung fissures (space between the lobes of the lungs). All of these evaluations will serve as ominous signs, leading to subsequent testing and a prospective mesothelioma cancer diagnosis.
If the chest x-ray reveals irregularities in the body, your medical professional will ask you to undergo a CT scan (computed tomography scan). The CT scan is a special radiographic technique that utilizes a computer to combine multiple x-ray images into 2 dimensional cross-sectional x-ray images. The CT machine rotates 180 degrees around the prospective mesothelioma cancer patient’s body, sending out thin x-ray beams at numerous points in the body. The CT scan uses crystals—located at the opposite sides of the beam to pick up and record the absorption rates of the fluctuating thickness levels of bone and tissue. The images derived from the CT scan allow a medical professional to evaluate distinct areas of the pleura and the lungs in a more in-depth way than an x-ray.
How is a CT Scan Performed?
For the majority of CT scans, a patient will lie on a padded chair or machine couch while a CT scanning machine rotates around their body. The process of receiving a CT scan is painless; however, the patient may not move or else the image may come out messed up. Moreover, the patient may be administered an injection of dye to promote picture clarity and help make the structures more visible.
A CT scan for a mesothelioma cancer diagnosis will take between 30 minutes and one hour to complete. This timeframe will depend on the type of CT scan equipment used.
A CT scan for a mesothelioma cancer diagnosis will help determine the size, location and extent of any present mesothelioma tumors. Besides revealing pleural effusions, pleural thickening and other irregularities in the cellular structure of the patient, the CT scan for mesothelioma diagnosis may indicate the spread of the disease beyond the chest wall or lymph nodes.