A mesothelioma diagnosis means you are going to need to summon up every ounce of courage you can muster. You will also need to draw upon your intelligence and resourcefulness to learn how to cope with this illness and live the best possible life you can with it. To do this you will have to try to understand mesothelioma, a disease you probably never heard of until your mesothelioma diagnosis.
When you are trying to understand mesothelioma and learn all you can about it, one of your best allies is your doctor. If after giving you a mesothelioma diagnosis, your doctor does not have time to answer all your questions, you are seeing the wrong doctor. Make sure your doctor is someone who is: compassionate, sympathetic and willing to answer your questions.
And remember there is no such thing as a “dumb” question. It’s your life.
Mesothelioma Diagnosis: What Questions Should I Ask My Doctor?
Here are 10 follow-up questions to ask your doctor after a mesothelioma diagnosis. You can print this list to take with you. Or use it to create your own list of questions.
- Why do I have a mesothelioma diagnosis? What did my tests show?
- What kind of disease is mesothelioma?
- What stage mesothelioma do I have?
- What is my prognosis? More succinctly what does my future hold?
- What causes mesothelioma? How did I get it?
- How does mesothelioma cause the symptoms I am having?
- Can other diseases besides mesothelioma cause these symptoms?
- How soon can I start treatment for mesothelioma?
- What experience do you have in treating mesothelioma?
- Will my insurance cover my mesothelioma treatment and will I have to pay them back?
What Tests Should I Get to Confirm a Mesothelioma Diagnosis?
A mesothelioma diagnosis may come as a shock. You may have thought symptoms such as coughing, shortness of breath and fever were a flu or pneumonia. But it is important to follow-up a mesothelioma diagnosis from your doctor with any recommended additional tests as quickly as possible so you can begin treatment if needed. Mesothelioma is caused by long ago asbestos exposure and is typically developing silently for years. But it is a cancer and one that moves quickly once symptoms become evident.
A mesothelioma diagnosis can be determined by three types of medical testing:
- Medical Imaging – You will likely undergo one or several types of medical imaging tests to determine a mesothelioma diagnosis. These may include chest x-rays to look for changes in the lungs or the lining of the lungs. Next, a CT scan done by a highly powerful rotating x-ray camera can help provide more details about anything suspicious that was detected in the basic chest x-ray. A CT scan can also reveal whether the mesothelioma has spread to other organs. This is an important step in deciding whether surgery is a reasonable treatment option. An echocardiogram may also be used to check whether mesothelioma has affected the lining of your heart. Echocardiogram uses sound waves to pick up the telltale signs of fluid build-up. PET and MRI scans can provide important details needed on the exact location and size of any tumors present.
- Biopsy Testing – A mesothelioma diagnosis is verified by removing tiny samples of fluid and/or tissue from the body. These are sent to a pathology lab for analysis. Doctors and technicians will examine the specimens through a powerful microscope to look for abnormal cancer cells. If cancer cells are found, they will be subjected to additional tests to make sure it is mesothelioma and not another type of cancer. Endoscopic biopsies are most frequently used to determine a mesothelioma diagnosis. Because tissue from deep inside the chest and abdominal area are needed, it is a surgical procedure requiring anesthesia.
- Blood Tests – Getting a blood sample drawn is a simple test for mesothelioma but it is considered only an extra test. You will still need one or more of the above tests for a firm mesothelioma diagnosis. But blood tests can provide helpful information by identifying proteins in the blood that are known to be markers signifying the presence of mesothelioma.
Should I Get Second Opinion For a Mesothelioma Diagnosis?
A mesothelioma diagnosis brings life-altering consequences. The treatments, including surgery, radiation and chemotherapy, are serious with possible side effects. Even with insurance, mesothelioma treatment and prescription medication can be expensive. Your doctor should suggest that you get a second opinion to remove any doubt you may have about your mesothelioma diagnosis. If your doctor does not offer this suggestion, bring it up yourself. Do not feel shy or worried your doctor will be upset or think you do not trust him or her. It is your life. If your doctor seems reluctant or offended that you want a second opinion, you may need to find another doctor anyway.
Even if your doctor is supportive of you getting a second opinion, you may not want to get it from a friend of your doctor. You should seek out a completely independent second opinion on your own from a major mesothelioma treatment center.
Here are 5 ways to confirm your mesothelioma diagnosis with a second opinion:
- First contact your health insurance provider. This way you can find out whether it covers the cost of getting a second opinion (some insurance companies insist on it before paying for your treatments). You can also find out who is an in-network provider you can go to for this.
- Tell others you trust: friends, family, your hair stylist – that you need a second opinion for a cancer diagnosis. Unfortunately, most people know someone who has faced cancer or have had it themselves. The upside is that you will get good referrals.
- Go to the website of your local hospital or cancer treatment center and look for the oncology department listings. You may find someone who specializes in mesothelioma or lung cancer. Then go to the website of the nearest major facility, hospital or medical school.
- Consult your lawyer. If you have a mesothelioma diagnosis, you need to see a lawyer about whether you have a case for unlawful asbestos exposure. No asbestos lawyer should charge you a fee until they win a case for you. They should be able to provide you with a list of physicians who specialize in mesothelioma – and advance the cost of a second opinion for you if your insurance won’t.
- Take a look here on our website at our resource list of doctors who treat mesothelioma. We have carefully put this list together to help you with this difficult process.