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The Difficulty of Diagnosing Mesothelioma

A doctor is attempting to diagnose their patient.Only 3,300 new cases of mesothelioma are diagnosed each year. Many doctors have little experience with the disease or don’t understand its complexity. It typically takes more than one doctor to reach an accurate diagnosis.

Other factors may hinder a mesothelioma diagnosis. Doctors commonly use imaging tests like X-rays, or CT scans to locate tumors. These scans may not always accurately diagnose specific types of cancer.

Pathologists are researchers who determine the causes and effects of many different diseases. Since the cell structure of mesothelioma is similar to other cancers, pathologists who have little experience with these cells may mistake them for something else.

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Common Misdiagnoses

A doctor is explaining the results of an x-ray to a patient.Mesothelioma symptoms are often similar to other common illnesses, making an accurate diagnosis more difficult. As a patient, it’s important to tell your doctor about any previous asbestos exposure. This information helps your medical team narrow down the list of possible diseases.

Possible misdiagnoses depend on the type of mesothelioma, and may include:

Pleural Mesothelioma

  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
  • Emphysema
  • Influenza (flu)
  • Lung cancer
  • Other respiratory disorders
  • Pneumonia

Peritoneal Mesothelioma

  • Gallstones
  • Hernia
  • Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
  • Other abdominal cancers
  • Ovarian cancer

Pericardial Mesothelioma

  • Coronary artery disease
  • Heart disease

Misdiagnosis of Stage

This image represents a doctor misdiagnosing the stage of mesothelioma.Rather than a completely inaccurate diagnosis, doctors sometimes diagnose mesothelioma in the wrong stage. Oncologists use the staging process to determine how far cancer cells have spread throughout the body.

Patients diagnosed in a later stage may find their cancer is not as advanced as previously assumed. Other patients may be diagnosed at an earlier stage when tumors have already spread throughout the body.


Doctors may misdiagnose cancer stage because each case of mesothelioma is unique, and patients experience different symptoms.

Second Opinions

This picture shows a patient talking to doctors about his or her medical condition.Patients diagnosed with mesothelioma may want different treatment options. Getting a second opinion can allow another doctor to study test results and likely offer an alternative plan.

When seeking a second opinion, patients meet doctors who specialize in mesothelioma and may receive better treatment options. It’s best to seek a second opinion if your doctor is not experienced with mesothelioma.

Before seeking a second opinion, make sure you have:

  • A list of all your medications, doses, and when you took them
  • The summary of your doctor’s current treatment plan or the proposed plan
  • If you were in the hospital, a copy of the discharge summary
  • Operative report (details of previous surgeries)
  • The pathology report from any biopsy or surgery

The Correct Diagnosis Matters

The type of cancer you have determines the treatment you will receive. Misdiagnosed patients likely aren’t receiving the correct treatment to improve their condition and quality of life.

This picture shows the different diagnosis options.
Tests that can help accurately diagnose mesothelioma:

  • Blood tests looking for mesothelioma biomarkers
  • Genetic tests looking for mutations associated with mesothelioma
  • Imaging tests such as X-rays and CT scans
  • Pathology tests looking for specific mesothelioma cell types
  • Reviewing the potential history of asbestos exposure

It is essential to be honest and accurate with your healthcare provider about possible asbestos exposure to ensure you receive the correct diagnosis.

After Diagnosis

If you’ve been diagnosed with mesothelioma, you may be eligible for compensation from the companies who manufactured asbestos or the employer who was responsible for your exposure. Complete our free case evaluation to start the process.

No matter who you are, a mesothelioma diagnosis is overwhelming. An experienced mesothelioma attorneys can help.

Complete a Free Case Evaluation

Mesothelioma Hotline

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Mesothelioma Hotline

We’re here for you every step of the way.

(205) 271-4100