Can Mesothelioma Be Misdiagnosed?
Yes, unfortunately, mesothelioma misdiagnosis is common. Approximately 14% of all mesothelioma cases and about 25% of pleural mesothelioma cases in the U.S. are misdiagnosed, according to the American Cancer Society Journals.
Generally, a mesothelioma misdiagnosis occurs in one of two ways:
- A person is wrongly diagnosed with a different condition instead of malignant mesothelioma
- The location, cell type, or stage of their mesothelioma is incorrectly identified
Misdiagnosing mesothelioma can lead to severe consequences. It can cause delays in receiving proper treatment, lead to ineffective therapies, and, in extreme cases, result in early death.
Given that mesothelioma is an aggressive cancer, timely and accurate diagnosis is critical for patients.
If you or a loved one has worrisome symptoms after a history of asbestos exposure or were diagnosed with mesothelioma but need more information, our registered nurses are here to assist. They can help you sort through the uncertainty to get the answers you need.
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Why Do Doctors Misdiagnose Mesothelioma?
Mesothelioma is a cancer that is not often encountered by physicians who do not specialize in it. For this reason, it’s not uncommon for mesothelioma to be misdiagnosed as another illness entirely, usually one that is far less serious. It is also possible for mesothelioma to be diagnosed at the wrong stage, which could impact treatment.
Reasons why doctors may misdiagnose mesothelioma include:
- Mesothelioma symptoms often resemble those of other diseases and illnesses
- Doctors may not know or ask about the patient’s asbestos exposure history
- The rarity of the disease can lead to doctors being unfamiliar with it
- Since diagnosis can take 10-50 years post-exposure, symptoms are often overlooked or not linked to asbestos
Unfortunately, a mesothelioma misdiagnosis is a serious mistake that can have severe consequences.
Mesothelioma Misdiagnosis by Type
There are four main types of mesothelioma, but each of these has only one known cause: exposure to asbestos, usually while on a job site or military base.
Learn more below about how mesothelioma misdiagnosis can occur with each of the four types.
Pleural Mesothelioma Misdiagnosis
Pleural mesothelioma occurs in the lining of the lungs, or pleura. It is the most common type of mesothelioma.
Symptoms of malignant pleural mesothelioma include coughing, difficulty breathing, chest pain, shortness of breath, pleural effusion (fluid buildup), and unexplained weight loss.
Conditions that pleural mesothelioma is commonly misdiagnosed as include:
- Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
- Lung cancer
Peritoneal Mesothelioma Misdiagnosis
Peritoneal mesothelioma occurs in the lining of the abdomen, or peritoneum.
Symptoms of peritoneal mesothelioma include abdominal swelling, abdominal pain, and new and unusual lumps in the abdomen.
Conditions that peritoneal mesothelioma is commonly misdiagnosed as include:
- Different types of abdominal cancer
- Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
- Ovarian cancer
Pericardial Mesothelioma Misdiagnosis
Pericardial mesothelioma is rare, and unfortunately has a poor prognosis, as it affects the lining of the heart, or pericardium.
Symptoms of pericardial mesothelioma are similar to those of pleural mesothelioma. They can include chest pain, shortness of breath, and weight loss.
Conditions that pericardial mesothelioma is commonly misdiagnosed as include:
- Congestive heart failure
- Constrictive pericarditis
- Heart disease
Testicular Mesothelioma Misdiagnosis
Testicular mesothelioma is the rarest form of mesothelioma and, therefore, the least recognizable by physicians who are not experts in the field.
Symptoms of testicular mesothelioma include testicular pain and swelling, inflammation, or lumps and masses that can be felt under the skin.
Conditions that testicular mesothelioma is commonly misdiagnosed as include:
- Inguinal hernia
- Sexually transmitted infections (STIs)
- Testicular cancer
If you believe you may have received a mesothelioma misdiagnosis, we may be able to help. Connect with our nurses right now.
Mesothelioma Misdiagnosis by Stage
Mesothelioma misdiagnosis can also be affected by the mesothelioma stage the patient is in.
A misdiagnosis by stage can be just as detrimental as a misdiagnosis of a different condition, as mesothelioma is treated in vastly different ways depending on the cancer’s progression.
Here is information on mesothelioma misdiagnosis by stage:
- Stage 1: Mesothelioma usually shows no symptoms in this stage, so it is not usually diagnosed or misdiagnosed.
- Stage 2: The symptoms of mesothelioma are still mild to unnoticeable in this early stage and may be misdiagnosed for common illnesses such as the flu or pneumonia.
- Stage 3: Symptoms of mesothelioma are more noticeable in this stage, and common misdiagnoses may include other types of cancer or conditions like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
- Stage 4: This is the most advanced stage, and when misdiagnosed, it is often for other cancers, such as lung cancer (pleural mesothelioma misdiagnosis) or ovarian cancer (peritoneal mesothelioma misdiagnosis).
Effects of a Mesothelioma Misdiagnosis
A mesothelioma misdiagnosis can have detrimental effects on prognosis, affecting both short-term and long-term life quality.
Effects of a mesothelioma misdiagnosis include:
- Delayed treatment: This can worsen the mesothelioma, potentially reaching a stage where curative treatments are no longer effective, which may reduce life expectancy.
- Emotional distress: Misdiagnosis can lead to confusion, mistrust, and false hope, especially if diagnosed with a less severe illness.
- Increased costs: Victims and their families may face additional expenses for extra treatments, travel for second opinions, or legal support due to the misdiagnosis of mesothelioma.
A correct mesothelioma diagnosis generally involves several steps to recognize the signs of mesothelioma and confirm its presence.
Diagnostic tests for mesothelioma include:
- Blood tests, which can show elevated levels of biomarkers, or signs of disease, that would warrant further testing.
- Imaging tests, such as CT scans, PET scans, and X-rays, show the location of abnormal or possibly cancerous tissues in the body.
- Biopsies are the only way to confirm a mesothelioma diagnosis by taking tissue samples removed from the suspicious area and examined in a lab.
After biopsy samples are taken, an individual can expect to get their results in one to three weeks.
How to Get a Second Opinion for a Mesothelioma Diagnosis
Learn about how to get a second opinion for a mesothelioma misdiagnosis below.
1. Research Mesothelioma Doctors
It is best to seek a doctor who specializes in mesothelioma, as they will be experienced in handling and diagnosing this cancer. This also means they are more likely to provide an accurate diagnosis.
A mesothelioma specialist will know how to get you the proper diagnosis so you can proceed with the best possible treatment plan.
2. Let Your Doctor Know
You do not need your doctor’s permission to get a second opinion, but it is a good idea to let them know so they can help coordinate your medical records, future care, and more.
Some doctors may encourage you to get a second opinion and will even have recommendations of health care providers for you in case you are unsure where to go.
3. Schedule Your Appointment
Once you have found the right doctor based on recommendations or your own research, you can make an appointment for your second opinion.
Remember that mesothelioma specialists are only available in select cities and hospitals, so you may have to travel for this appointment.
4. Get Additional Testing if Necessary
The physician you see for a second opinion may not be able to provide a correct diagnosis based on the information they already have. For this reason, you should also be prepared to get additional testing so they can properly diagnose you at their oncology facility.
If you need help getting a second opinion, the team at the Lung Cancer Group is standing by. Our on-staff nurses have relationships with top mesothelioma doctors. Connect with us right now.
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Getting an Accurate Mesothelioma Diagnosis
There are a few things that you can look for in your mesothelioma diagnosis to ensure that it is accurate.
Location and Stage
Your diagnosis should include which mesothelioma type and stage you have so you know where your mesothelioma is located and how far along it has progressed.
This information is extremely important as it can guide your entire treatment plan after your diagnosis. It will also help determine whether your medical team uses curative treatments or treatments that work to make you comfortable and manage symptoms.
Your mesothelioma diagnosis should indicate the type of mesothelioma cell type present, as this will significantly affect your prognosis and treatment options.
Mesothelioma tumor cell types are epithelioid, sarcomatoid, and biphasic, with epithelioid being the most common and treatable type.
Look for a prognosis from your oncologist that is realistic yet optimistic. There is always hope, especially as breakthroughs in mesothelioma treatments arise.
While the mesothelioma life expectancy is often poor, countless patients continue to outlive their original prognosis.
Suggested Treatment Plan
Your diagnosis should conclude with a suggested mesothelioma treatment plan that is based on the type of mesothelioma and stage that you have.
Mesothelioma patients generally have several treatment options available, but this largely depends on the stage and type of mesothelioma.
Find Help With a Mesothelioma Misdiagnosis
If you or a loved one has received a mesothelioma misdiagnosis, prompt and proper medical support is crucial.
If you have any questions or need guidance on managing a mesothelioma misdiagnosis, contact the Lung Cancer Group today.
No one should have to suffer from the emotional anguish and physical pain that can come with a mesothelioma misdiagnosis. We may be able to help connect you with top mesothelioma doctors across the country to get a second opinion and access cutting-edge treatments.
Contact our experienced mesothelioma nurses now to see what options are available for you.
Mesothelioma Misdiagnosis FAQs
Can mesothelioma be misdiagnosed?
Yes, it is not uncommon for a mesothelioma diagnosis to be wrong, as this is a very rare type of cancer that many physicians will never encounter. It is also possible for mesothelioma to be misdiagnosed as other less serious conditions.
It is best to seek a second opinion or even a third opinion if you have a history of asbestos exposure and your symptoms continue to worsen.
What conditions can mimic mesothelioma?
Several conditions can mimic mesothelioma, depending on the type of mesothelioma a person has.
For example, symptoms of lung cancer, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), and congestive heart failure can appear similar to pleural mesothelioma, peritoneal mesothelioma, and pericardial mesothelioma, respectively.
What is a second opinion for mesothelioma?
Getting a second opinion for a diagnosis of mesothelioma means choosing to seek another opinion outside of the original doctor who diagnosed you.
It is generally wise to seek a second opinion if you think that you were diagnosed at the wrong stage of mesothelioma or if you believe you were diagnosed with the wrong condition.
Why is mesothelioma so hard to diagnose?
Malignant mesothelioma can be challenging to diagnose because it is very rare, and most doctors never encounter any mesothelioma cases or treat them during their careers.
It can also be a challenge to diagnose because its symptoms are similar to other common and less severe conditions like pneumonia or IBS.