Is a Biopsy the Best Way to Confirm a Mesothelioma Diagnosis?

Posted on June 2, 2021

pathologist examining tissue samplesIf you are experiencing symptoms of mesothelioma, your treating doctor will likely start by reviewing your work history for asbestos exposure, conducting a physical exam and ordering imaging tests.

While these steps may help identify whether you have signs of an asbestos-related disease, he or she will ultimately ask that you get a biopsy done. A biopsy involves removing tissue or fluid samples to determine if it is cancerous – this procedure is the only definitive way to confirm a mesothelioma diagnosis.

If you or someone you love has undergone a biopsy and been diagnosed with mesothelioma, financial compensation may be available to get you through this difficult time. Contact our firm today to learn more about your legal options. PWHD offers initial consultations at no cost or obligation to you.

Find out of you have a case. Call: 1-800-459-1881

What Does it Take to Conduct a Mesothelioma Biopsy?

A mesothelioma biopsy involves collecting a sample of tissue or fluid from the affected area. A pathologist then tests the sample under a microscope for the presence of cancerous cells. A biopsy is used in combination with blood tests and imaging scans to identify mesothelioma.

Biopsies are the best way to confirm a mesothelioma diagnosis. These medical procedures can determine the type of mesothelioma and mesothelioma stage with the help of imaging results. Analysis of a biopsy sample can also help doctors determine the best treatment options.

There are different kinds of biopsies that could be used. It is important that a doctor perform the most relevant kind of biopsy specific to a patient’s case to ensure a precise diagnosis.

Can Mesothelioma Be Diagnosed Without Undergoing a Biopsy?

The short answer is no. A biopsy is necessary to determine whether a tumor is cancerous and if so, the specific cells present.

There are three cell types: epithelioid, sarcomatoid and biphasic. Doctors can tell the difference between cells based on how they look under the microscope. Cell types help determine treatment.

Mesothelioma shares similar symptoms with other illnesses, which is why doctors often mistake this rare disease for common illnesses or types of cancer. That is why a biopsy is essential to confirm a mesothelioma diagnosis. It can take several days or weeks to receive the results of a biopsy.

Is There More than One Kind of Mesothelioma Biopsy?

There are different kinds of biopsies that can be used in a mesothelioma case. For instance, a less invasive biopsy may help early-stage patients while those with late-stage mesothelioma may require an invasive approach. The biopsy a treating doctor decides to use will depend on the location of the tumor.

The most common biopsies are:

Endoscopic Biopsies

An endoscopic biopsy is a procedure that involves inserting a thin tube with a small camera on the end to examine the affected tissue and take a sample for testing.

Endoscopic biopsies used to diagnose mesothelioma include:

  • Thoracoscopy – A camera called a thoracoscope is used to examine and take samples of tissue inside the chest. This procedure can provide a tissue sample for diagnosing pleural mesothelioma, which is cancer that develops in the lining of the lungs and chest cavity.
  • Laparoscopy – A camera called a laparoscope is used to locate tumors in the abdominal cavity and take tissue samples for analysis. This procedure is often performed on patients suspected of having peritoneal mesothelioma, cancer that develops in the lining of the abdomen.
  • Mediastinoscopy – This procedure takes tissue samples from the space between the lungs, known as the mediastinum. Your doctor may want this biopsy if cancer has spread to the chest or if a patient is suspected of having pericardial mesothelioma, which is cancer in the lining of the heart.

Needle Biopsies

A needle biopsy is generally a minimally invasive procedure. A thin needle is inserted to remove fluid that has built up in the body due to cancer. Needle biopsies can also be used to collect tissue samples from the lymph nodes to determine if cancer has spread.

Needle biopsies used to diagnose mesothelioma include:

  • Thoracentesis – This procedure helps drain excess fluid between the lungs and chest, also known as pleural effusion, and takes a sample of fluid to help diagnose pleural mesothelioma.
  • Paracentesis – This procedure helps drains excess fluid around the abdomen and may also relieve a patient’s abdominal pain, which is a common symptom of peritoneal mesothelioma.
  • Pericardiocentesis – This procedure helps drain excess fluid between the heart. This type of fluid buildup is common in patients suffering from pericardial mesothelioma.

Surgical Biopsies

A surgical biopsy is the most invasive and involves removing a large tissue sample. Doctors may perform this procedure if the suspected cancerous tumor cannot be easily reached using a needle or endoscope.

Surgical biopsies used to diagnose mesothelioma include:

  • Thoracotomy – An incision is made in the chest wall so that the doctor can examine the affected area and take a sample of the tumor or try to remove the entire tumor.
  • Laparotomy – An incision is made in the abdominal wall so that the doctor can examine the affected area and take a sample of the tumor or try to remove the entire tumor.

What Should I Expect During a Mesothelioma Biopsy?

If your treating doctor asks you to undergo a mesothelioma biopsy, knowing what to expect can help put you more at ease. Your overall experience will depend on the biopsy procedure performed.

For instance, an endoscopic biopsy will require general anesthesia and a hospital stay. A small incision is made, and a thin tube is inserted into the chest or abdominal cavity. Once tissue samples have been collected, the patient is sent to a recovery room for monitoring until the anesthesia wears off.

In a needle biopsy, local anesthesia is applied to the area where the needle is to be inserted. A CT scan or ultrasound may be used to guide the needle into the chest or abdominal cavity to remove tissue samples. The procedure is generally done within 10 minutes with little to no recovery time needed.

A surgical biopsy, on the other hand, will require general anesthesia and hospitalization. An incision is made to the affected area to access the tumor and remove it. A longer recovery time is to be expected.

Diagnosed with Mesothelioma? Call for a Free Consultation

PWHD has helped many individuals diagnosed with mesothelioma over the past 45 years. We are here to answer questions you may have about the legal process, the compensation available to mesothelioma victims and discuss how we may be able to help you.

The initial consultation with a Hampton Roads mesothelioma lawyer is free and completely confidential. There are no upfront fees to retain our services and no fees while we investigate and work on a case.

Talk to a licensed attorney today. Ph: 1-800-459-1881
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