Diagnosing mesothelioma

A model showing DNA strands

Diagnosing mesothelioma

Tests with your GP

Tell your family doctor (GP) about your symptoms and if you were exposed to asbestos. They may refer you to hospital or a rapid access lung clinic. These are consultant-led assessment and diagnostic services for patients with suspected lung disease.  There are eight rapid access clinics located around the country; your GP will send you to your nearest one. 

Tests at the hospital

  • Chest X-ray: An X-ray to see if there is a build-up of fluid on your lungs (pleural effusion).
  • CT scan: A type of X-ray that gives a detailed picture of the tissues inside your body to see where the cancer is and if it has spread.
  • Thoracoscopy: A flexible tube with a light and camera put into your chest through a cut between your ribs. It can see if the membranes that line the lungs (pleura) look normal. This may be done under general or local anesthetic with sedation. A biopsy (sample of tissue) is usually taken during this procedure.
  • Pleural aspiration: Taking a sample of the fluid inside the chest. The doctor puts a small needle and/or tube into the chest cavity, this drains the fluid into a bag, this fluid is then sent to the laboratory to test for cancer cells.
  • Biopsy: This means taking a sample of the cells in the pleura (lung membranes) and looking at them under a microscope to check for mesothelioma. This is usually done during a thoracoscopy. The results usually take about two weeks.
  • Bronchoscopy: A small tube with a camera on the end is passed into your lungs through your nose or mouth to take pictures (and maybe samples) of your lungs.
  • Mediastinoscopy: Putting a tube with a light and a camera into the centre of your chest area, through a small cut at the front of your lower neck. It can see if there are any abnormal areas and if the cancer has spread to the lymph nodes there.

A respiratory doctor is a doctor who specialises in treating problems with the lungs.

If you’re diagnosed with mesothelioma through being exposed to asbestos in the past, you may be entitled to compensation. Ask your doctor or a solicitor about this.

For more information

Icon: Phone


1800 200 700

Icon: Email