Your doctor (usually GP) will examine you and
ask about your general health, family history and
symptoms. If you believe you have been exposed
to asbestos, mention this during your appointment.
You will probably be asked to have tests and
you may be referred to a specialist, such as a
gastroenterologist. A gastroenterologist is a doctor
who specialises in the diagnosis and treatment of
diseases of the digestive system.
Peritoneal mesothelioma can be difficult to diagnose.
You are likely to have quite a few tests and there
will be different health professionals involved. Each
person’s pathway to diagnosis is unique.
A blood test will not detect mesothelioma, but it can
let your doctors know how your blood cells, liver and
kidneys are working.
This scan will look for any abnormalities in the
abdomen, such as fluid and thickening in the
peritoneum. If changes are found, you will need more
tests to find the cause, as it can also be due to other
conditions. A lung x-ray may also be done to check if
the lungs are also affected.
This scan uses x-ray beams to create a detailed 3D
picture of the inside of the body. It provides accurate
information about the location and thickness of
the tumour(s) in the abdomen. It can show if the
mesothelioma has spread to other organs.
The CT scan is also used to help determine the best
way of obtaining tissue for examination (biopsy).
An MRI scan uses magnetic waves to create detailed
cross-sectional pictures of the soft tissues in your body.
These show the exact location and extent of the tumour.
You should let your medical team know if you have a
pacemaker, as the magnetic waves can interfere with
A PET scan is a specialised imaging test available at
most major hospitals. It is used to find cancer cells
that may not have been detected from other tests, and
it can show if the mesothelioma has spread to lymph
nodes or other parts of the body.
During a biopsy, a small sample of thickened tissue is
removed from the abdomen. The cells are examined
under a microscope to determine if the tumour is
mesothelioma and, if so, what type of cells are present,
i.e. epithelioid, sarcomatoid or biphasic.
A biopsy can be taken in two ways:
CT-guided core biopsyA CT scan is used to
guide the needle into the tissue. This is done under
local anaesthetic (the skin is numbed).
LaparoscopyA thin tube called a laparoscope is
inserted into your body. Through this tube, the doctor
removes tissue samples for biopsy. A small camera
is also used to look for signs of tumours and to see
if they have spread. You will be admitted to hospital
and given a general anaesthetic for this procedure.
Paracentesis (fluid drainage/tap)
You may have a build-up of peritoneal fluid in your
abdomen; this is called ascites or peritoneal effusion.
This may happen because the mesothelioma cells
irritate the area. The extra fluid can cause abdominal
swelling, tightness and pain.
A specialist can drain the fluid from your abdomen by
using a local anaesthetic, inserting a needle through
the skin and drawing fluid into the syringe. A sample
can be tested for mesothelioma. Removing the fluid
can also improve your symptoms.
Reviewed: Prof Paul
Moroz, Professor of Surgery, University of Western Australia and Director of the
Western Australian Peritonectomy Service, Joondalup Health Campus, WA;
Carole Arbuckle, 13 11 20 nurse, Cancer Council Victoria, VIC; Sharyn Fenech,
consumer; Dr Vinod Ganju, Head of Translational Research, Monash Cancer
Centre, VIC; Vicki Hamilton, CEO, Asbestos Council of Victoria-GARDS, VIC;
Dr Tom John, Medical Oncologist, Austin Hospital, VIC; Victoria Keena,
Executive Officer, Asbestos Diseases Research Institute, NSW; Prof David
Morris, University of New South Wales, Department of Surgery, St George
Hospital, NSW; Evelyn Ramirez, consumer; Rod Smith, Bernie Banton
Foundation; Elaine Spellman, Peritonectomy, Clinical Nurse Specialist,
Joondalup Health Campus, WA; Prof Nico van Zandwijk, Director of the
Asbestos Diseases Research Institute and Professor of Medicine, University
of Sydney, NSW and A/Prof Winston Liauw, Cancer Services Stream Director,
South Eastern Sydney Local Health District, NSW.
Note to reader
Always consult your doctor about matters that affect your