Misleading Symptoms: The Complex Path to Diagnosing Mesothelioma

Misleading Symptoms: The Complex Path to Diagnosing Mesothelioma

Patients with symptoms that look like mesothelioma take longer to get an accurate diagnosis, finds a study out of the United Kingdom.

The Complex Path to Diagnosing Mesothelioma

Mesothelioma is a rare form of cancer that develops from the cells in the lining of many of the internal organs in the body. There are about 2,000 cases of mesothelioma diagnosed in the United States each year. It is caused by exposure to asbestos.

Symptoms of mesothelioma may include shortness of breath, chest pain, weight loss, and fatigue. These are so like many other diseases that only a proper work-up, including scans and even a biopsy, can determine if the cause is mesothelioma. Because the disease is so rare, it can take a long time for a doctor to finally diagnose mesothelioma in someone.

Prolonged Diagnosis Times for Mesothelioma Look-Alikes

The researchers looked at patients who were at least 65 years old in 2019 and had been diagnosed with either lung cancer or mesothelioma. They looked at how long it took from when the patients first showed symptoms to when they were officially diagnosed. They also took other factors into account, like how often the patients saw their doctors, if they smoked, and their body mass index.

They found that patients with other health conditions that look like lung cancer or mesothelioma took longer to get an accurate diagnosis. It increased the time it took to get an accurate diagnosis by up to 72 days.

The researchers also discovered that the more competing conditions a person had, the longer the delay.

Delays in diagnosis make it harder to successfully treat patients with mesothelioma because the delay gives the cancer more time to spread. The more a cancer can spread, the harder it is to remove it from the patient’s body completely. This means that more invasive treatment methods are needed, which can be hard or even impossible for the patient to undergo.

Doctors should be encouraged to consider mesothelioma whenever symptoms present themselves in a patient. This can improve the time to diagnosis and make it easier to treat this aggressive disease.


Rogers I, Cooper M, Memon A, Ford E. The effect of comorbidities on diagnostic interval for lung cancer and mesothelioma: A cohort study using linked data from the Clinical Practice Research Datalink and Cancer Registry. International Journal of Population Data Science. 2023;8(3):60. https://ijpds.org/article/view/2241/4846.

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