With cancer more than most diseases, early diagnosis is the key to successful treatment. For mesothelioma it is critical. For that reason, people who have a history of asbestos exposure in their past should be sensitive to respiratory symptoms when they develop. Equally important is finding a doctor that understands the nature of the disease and the role that asbestos plays in its development.
One of the problems in achieving an early mesothelioma diagnosis is the fact that the disease shares symptoms with many other more common afflictions. Moreover, most people who are developing mesothelioma today are retired or in their 60s or 70s. Physicians tend to expect ailments to develop more readily in older people, which is not unreasonable. But for someone with a history of asbestos exposure, prompt exploration of seemingly small matters like a persistent cough is important.
Usually a person seeks treatment from his or her primary physician, usually an internist or general practitioner. After tests fail to produce an adequate reason for fairly standard symptoms, the patient is referred to a specialist. If the symptoms are for malignant pleural mesothelioma, the most common variant of the disease, a pulmonary specialist may be next on the list of consulting doctors. Peritoneal mesothelioma patients exhibiting an extended abdomen may be sent to a gastroenterologist.
It is not unreasonable for a person with a history of asbestos exposure to seek out a specialist immediately. If you fit the profile: an older person with persistent chest pain or pleurisy or a cough that won’t go away you might consider finding a doctor who specializes in chest illnesses and who is familiar with mesothelioma symptoms.
That doctor could be a thoracic surgeon, a pulmonologist or an oncologist. It is not a standard practice for patients to seek out specialists without a referral. Many insurance companies won’t pay for such a visit without a referral. But for potential mesothelioma patients, sometimes it makes sense to accelerate the process by being aggressive. At the very least, work with a primary care provider who is familiar with the characteristics of mesothelioma and understands the urgency that goes with mesothelioma symptoms.
Some people feel that it’s necessary to seek out a doctor who has specialized in treatment and research for mesothelioma. Those individuals are usually very busy people who are probably several states away. It is enough to consult with a physician who can get moving on diagnostic procedures that include focus on mesothelioma. A CT scan can be read for mesothelioma symptoms as well as for pneumonia – many of the symptoms are the same. Blood tests can look for the presence of malignant cells as well as for a virus or bacteria.
The important factor is time. A doctor who can make a speedy diagnosis is a good mesothelioma doctor, no matter what specialty he or she practices.