Diagnosing mesothelioma

This page was reviewed under our medical and editorial policy by

Maurie Markman, MD, President, Medicine & Science.

This page was updated on June 6, 2022.

Our mesothelioma experts use a variety of tests and tools designed for diagnosing mesothelioma, evaluating the disease and personalizing each patient’s treatment plan. We continue to use these tools throughout mesothelioma treatment, to track the size of the tumor(s), monitor the response to treatment, and modify the plan when needed.

Some evaluations we may perform that are designed for diagnosing mesothelioma include:


Endoscopic biopsy techniques that may be performed to diagnose mesothelioma include:

  • Thoracoscopy, used to examine the inside of the chest and obtain a biopsy
  • Mediastinoscopy, inserted into the chest to look at the space between the lungs and obtain a biopsy
  • Bronchoscopy, used to examine and biopsy tissue in the lungs, bronchi (tubes inside the lungs) and trachea (windpipe)
  • Laparoscopy, used to look inside the abdomen and obtain tissue samples


CT scans: These imaging tests are frequently used when making a mesothelioma diagnosis, because they may help pinpoint the location of cancer in the body. Typically, patients with pleural mesothelioma receive a CT of the chest with contrast dye. CT scans typically take 10 to 15 minutes to perform.

MRI: Because mesothelioma may spread to the diaphragm, an MRI may be used to look at the diaphragm, the muscle used for breathing, which separates the chest from the abdomen.

PET/CT scan: PET/CT may be used to detect cancerous tissue and cells that may not always be found through a CT scan or MRI alone. In particular, for mesothelioma patients, PET/CT helps doctors determine if the cancer has spread.

Next topic: How is mesothelioma treated?

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