Mesothelioma Diagnosis

When you come to see the experts at Memorial Sloan Kettering, we’ll discuss your medical history to determine any risk factors you may have for the disease. We’ll also take a sample of tissue (a biopsy) to confirm the diagnosis; our pathologists are leading experts in this area.

Quick and accurate diagnosis of mesothelioma is extremely important with all forms of mesothelioma.

“With mesothelioma, early diagnosis really does matter in terms of survival and your treatment options.” — Thoracic surgeon Valerie Rusch

Come to MSK for:

  • a clear diagnosis, including an expert assessment from pathologists who know how to look at mesothelioma cells. (A level of expertise unavailable at most hospitals.)
  • a team of mesothelioma experts who concentrate on your situation and make the best decision about a treatment plan for you

How We Diagnose Pleural Mesothelioma

In a pleural mesothelioma biopsy, your surgeon removes a tissue sample through a small cut in your chest wall. Your surgeon also inserts a small camera through a different incision. This camera helps your surgeon during the procedure. A biopsy takes less than an hour, and recovery takes a few days.

Your treatment team will use a physical examination, x-rays, tests of your lung function, and other imaging tests to understand how far the disease has spread. They will also determine the stage of the disease.

If you have fluid buildup in your lungs (called pleural effusion) and shortness of breath, we may drain this fluid with a drainage catheter (a tube) or a procedure called thoracentesis.

How We Diagnose Peritoneal Mesothelioma

We may use a procedure called paracentesis to drain the fluid buildup in your abdomen if it’s causing you discomfort or other problems. We can also use a sample of this fluid to look for cancer cells and diagnose what type of peritoneal mesothelioma you may have.

If our examination of the fluid doesn’t give us enough information, we may have an interventional radiologist insert a thin needle through your skin to take a sample of tissue from your abdominal area. If needle biopsy isn’t a safe option for you, or if its results are unclear, we may recommend that you have a minimally invasive procedure called a laparoscopy to examine you and be absolutely sure about your diagnosis and the best first steps for treating you.

During a laparoscopy, your surgeon inserts a tiny video camera through a small incision in your abdomen. The camera helps guide the procedure, which involves more small cuts through which your surgeon removes a small tissue sample using special instruments.