Patients exhibiting mesothelioma symptoms (i.e., a large buildup of fluid in the chest or abdomen) and who have a history of asbestos exposure will frequently be sent for a biopsy of the fluid and/or tissue by their doctors. There are two primary types of biopsies that mesothelioma patients may undergo: needle biopsies and surgical biopsies.
Mesothelioma is a disease that is characterized by an extended latency period and symptoms that often mimic those of more minor upper respiratory conditions. As a result, the diagnosis of this type of cancer is often delayed. Frequently, by the time that a patient is diagnosed with the disease, it has progressed to advanced stages at which time therapeutic treatment options become more limited.
This section discusses the types of biopsies that may be performed, which biopsy procedures are recommended depending on where the fluid buildup is occurring, and the types of information that can be acquired through biopsies to aid in the diagnosis and treatment of mesothelioma.
A fine needle biopsy is considered to be a closed biopsy procedure and therefore less invasive than open surgical biopsies. Pleural biopsy is the most common closed biopsy procedure that is performed to aid in the diagnosis of mesothelioma. Other types of closed biopsy procedures include thoracentesis and paracentesis . This section discusses each of these procedures in more detail including their primary purpose, how they are performed, what to expect and any risks associated with them.
Surgical biopsies are open procedures and are more invasive than the aforementioned needle biopsies. As a result, doctors take a more conservative approach with them and prescribe them when the less invasive biopsy procedures yield inconclusive results or if it is indicated that it would not be safe to perform them. In this section, learn about the different types of surgical biopsies that are available including why they are performed, what to expect if your doctor recommends one and what the associated risks are.
JE Heffner, Medical University of South Carolina,. "Pleural Fluid Analysis, Thoracentesis, Biopsy, and Chest Tube” , 2006
Harvey I. Pass, John A. Dingell, Susan Vento: 100 Questions & Answers About Mesothelioma. (Jones and Bartlett Publishers, Inc., 2005)