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Imaging Scans

Imaging Scans

If an individual presents symptoms of mesothelioma cancer—pleural or peritoneal effusion, dysphagia, shortness of breath, wheezing, or chest pain—a physical examination along with a complete review of the individual’s history may lead to a preliminary diagnosis. The physical examination may include listening to the lungs for raspy or cloudy breath sounds.

Often times, other tools are utilized during the physical examination to ensure the right diagnosis—imaging scans, CT scan, PET scan, or x-ray. If these tools allude to the possible presence of mesothelioma, a biopsy may be taken from the affected tissue to confirm the diagnosis.

Symptoms of mesothelioma, in conjunction with known asbestos exposure, may require an individual to undergo an imaging or a magnetic resonance imaging scan (MRI). An MRI is a common diagnostic tool used with pleural mesothelioma, peritoneal mesothelioma, and pericardial mesothelioma.

By taking tomographic images or small pictures of tissues through magnetic fields and radio waves, an MRI can produce an accurate picture of the affected area. These images provide contrast between tissues where cancers can be spotted. The powerful magnetic field of an MRI magnetizes atoms and with radio waves changes the magnetization. Through this process, a clear image of the scanned area is projected.

MRIs can highlight malignancies from regular, normal tissue. Since a MRI does not use ionizing radiation like CT scans or x-rays, it is relatively harmless to individuals. Further, MRIs provide better contrasting images than CT scans which can expedite a proper, correct diagnosis. For pericardial mesothelioma, the rarest form of the cancer, MRIs may be used to image the heart and may provide better results than other imagers.

Since MRIs are relatively new medical diagnostic tools, and with mesothelioma they have not been regularly used. With the combination of better contrasting imaging and little harm caused to individuals undergoing the scan, MRIs may be one of the better diagnostic tools available for mesothelioma.

Like the advent of the MRI on the medical field, other advancements in treatment for mesothelioma are also rapidly progressing. Armed with these diagnostic tools and improved treatments, individuals battling malignant mesothelioma may have a better prognosis than that if they were diagnosed years ago.

Diagnostic Imaging Tools

PET Scan

A PET Scan is a nuclear medicine imaging technique. It can provide doctors with a three-dimensional image of an area as well as information about the function of the tissue in that area.


An MRI or magnetic resonance image is a preferred diagnostic tool that mesothelioma doctors use to detect the presence of mesothelioma. It can also be used to identify the stage that the cancer has progressed to.

CT Scan

A CT scan, or computed tomography scan is capable of providing images of the same location from many different angles. CT scans, in some cases, are more useful in helping doctors diagnose pleural mesothelioma and peritoneal mesothelioma.


X-ray exams are frequently used by doctors as a first level diagnostic tool to understand what may or may not be going on in a particular area and to identify if additional testing is needed. Chest x-rays are often used to diagnose pleural mesothelioma.

View Sources


The Merck Manual. Magnetic Resonance Imaging. Accessed on November 9, 2010.

The Merck Manual. Asbestos-Related Disorders. Accessed on November 9, 2010. - sec05-ch057-ch057c-1014h

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