It’s always tough to receive a cancer diagnosis, but it’s even harder to find out you received the wrong diagnosis. Women with peritoneal mesothelioma can be misdiagnosed with ovarian cancer because the two cancers present similar symptoms.
Mesothelioma vs. Ovarian Cancer Overview
Although there may be similarities between mesothelioma and ovarian cancer, they are both very different diseases. How these cancers are caused, treated, staged and diagnosed are unique, and it’s important that each cancer is treated with the most effective method possible.
Women diagnosed with ovarian cancer after being exposed to asbestos should consider the possibility that they have been misdiagnosed. These women should seek a second opinion from an experienced mesothelioma specialist.
Mesothelioma vs. Ovarian Cancer Causes
Asbestos exposure causes mesothelioma. When a person is exposed to asbestos, either directly or through another person’s contact with the substance, they are at risk of inhaling dangerous asbestos fibers. The inhaled fibers become lodged in the lining of the lungs, heart or abdomen, where they become permanently stuck.
Asbestos particles can trigger a mutation of cells, transforming healthy cells into cancerous cells. These cancer cells are known as mesothelioma, a form of the disease that is particularly challenging to treat. Over time, mesothelioma cells spread to new parts of the body, where they can be misdiagnosed as other forms of cancer, including ovarian cancer.
Ovarian Cancer Causes
The medical community has yet to determine the cause of ovarian cancer. Like mesothelioma, ovarian cancer is caused by a mutation of healthy cells into cancer cells. However, scientists don’t know what triggers this mutation in the first place.
While the cause of ovarian cancer is still unknown, there are several risk factors:
- Being over 40 years of age
- Abusing alcohol
- Having children later in life
- Never having children
- Having hormone therapy post-menopause
- Former breast cancer diagnosis
- A family history of ovarian, breast or colorectal cancer
- Having PTEN tumor hamartoma syndrome
- Hereditary nonpolyposis colon cancer
- Having MUTYH-associated polyposis
Many women with the above risk factors never develop ovarian cancer or any other forms of cancer. Risk factors only increase the odds that ovarian cancer will occur.
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Mesothelioma vs. Ovarian Cancer Symptoms
Peritoneal mesothelioma symptoms can be minimal or even non-existent in the early stages, making it difficult for even the most experienced professionals to diagnose. In some cases, symptoms don’t occur until the cancer is in its final stages.
Common early peritoneal mesothelioma symptoms:
- Abdominal pain
- Abdominal swelling
- Abdominal fluid buildup
- Gas or cramps
- Sudden weight loss
- Lack of appetite
As peritoneal mesothelioma progresses, these additional symptoms may develop:
- Blood clots
- Lumps in the abdomen
If mesothelioma symptoms are detected, patient support specialists can help you understand your next steps.
Ovarian Cancer Symptoms
Similar to mesothelioma, symptoms of ovarian cancer during the early stages may be minimal. Early stage ovarian cancer symptoms can appear as other diseases and conditions, making it a challenge to diagnose.
Women sometimes do not recognize the cancer symptoms as a warning sign, or they dismiss them as another medical concern. As a general rule, symptoms that occur more than 12 times in a month may indicate ovarian cancer.
Common ovarian cancer symptoms:
- Abdominal pain
- Loss of appetite
- Frequent urination
- Persistently feeling the need to urinate
Additional but less common ovarian cancer symptoms:
- Upset stomach
- Sudden weight loss
- Menstruation changes
- Back pain
- Pain during sex
Women who experience a sudden or persistent change in their health, indicated by the symptoms above, should contact a doctor.
Mesothelioma vs. Ovarian Cancer Diagnosis
There are four stages to diagnosing peritoneal mesothelioma. These tests are vital in the diagnosis of mesothelioma.
- Medical History and Exam – Most patients begin the diagnosis process with a conversation and a physical exam. A medical professional will ask a series of questions about personal health history, family history, symptoms and any other causes of concern.
- Blood Tests – A patient will undergo a series of biological tests to search for abnormalities and genetic biomarkers that may indicate cancer. If these tests suggest cancer may be present in the body, doctors may order more specific tests or go straight to imaging scans.
- Imaging Scans – Imaging scans may include CT, PET, MRI, x-rays or other specialized imaging tests. The goal of these scans is to see inside the body and attempt to locate any visible masses.
- Biopsy – Once the blood tests and imaging scans are complete, a doctor may order a biopsy of an identified mass. A biopsy is the only way to diagnose a patient with mesothelioma accurately. Cells are collected and sent to a pathologist, who will confirm whether the cells have mutated into mesothelioma.
Ovarian Cancer Diagnosis
Ovarian cancer is diagnosed in a similar way to mesothelioma, as patients will also undergo a physical exam and the doctor checks for enlarged ovaries or an increase in abdominal fluid. If the doctor detects a potential issue, additional biological tests will be requested. Imaging scans and biopsies are also used in the diagnosis of ovarian cancer.
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Mesothelioma vs. Ovarian Cancer Treatment
Mesothelioma specialists will start with surgical treatment by removing as much of the visible tumor as possible. Cancerous tissues are cut away and disposed of or sent away for biopsy. After the surgery is complete, many patients will undergo a unique mesothelioma treatment called HIPEC, or heated chemotherapy.
HIPEC is a treatment where the abdominal cavity is filled with a chemotherapy solution that covers the abdomen and organs in chemo drugs. This chemotherapy solution can help destroy any microscopic cancer cells that were left behind during the surgical procedure. HIPEC may be performed immediately after surgery or several weeks later.
In treating mesothelioma, a trimodal approach is typically used. The tri-modal approach includes three different treatments, to include surgery, chemotherapy and radiation.
Traditional IV or oral chemotherapy and radiation therapy are usually the next lines of defense. Patients will alternate the use of the two to maximize the results until the mesothelioma is eliminated or becomes resistant to the treatment.
Many new mesothelioma treatments are also being developed in the hopes of finding an ultimate cure. These treatments include biological therapy, targeted therapy, and immunotherapy, as well as research into improving existing chemo cocktails.
Ovarian Cancer Treatment
Almost all types of ovarian cancer are first treated with surgery. Just like with mesothelioma, the goal of this surgery is to remove as much of the cancerous cells as possible.
The next course of action varies considerably. Depending on the type and stage of ovarian cancer, and may include chemotherapy, radiation therapy, hormone therapy or targeted therapy.
Ovarian Cancer Misdiagnosis
Mesothelioma requires a unique treatment protocol that doesn’t apply to ovarian cancer. Therefore, a misdiagnosis is deadly. If you have an ovarian cancer diagnosis, speak with a mesothelioma patient advocate to confirm your diagnosis with a second opinion.