Mesothelioma Screening: What to Expect
Due to its long latency period, accurate early detection of mesothelioma remains elusive. Screening— tests performed to determine the presence of a condition prior to symptoms— is still being heavily researched for mesothelioma. Currently, no widely recommended screening tests are available for this rare form of aggressive cancer, but doctors do recommend various imaging tests, blood tests, and biopsies for those at risk of mesothelioma.
X-rays produce images of dense areas and identify changes in the lungs. Although mesothelioma typically cannot be seen on an x-ray, the tumor often causes a pleural effusion, or fluid collection between the lung and chest wall. This abnormal finding is associated with shortness of breath and warrants clinical follow up.
CT (Computed Tomography) Scans
Also referred to as a CAT Scan, a CT Scan provides a more in-depth look at the affected area. With images from many different angles, a 3-D model is constructed for a more comprehensive analysis.
MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging)
With the use of magnets and radio waves, MRIs are able to more clearly distinguish the healthy tissue from the cancerous tissue and detect the locations of the tumors.
PET (Positron Emission Tomography) Scans
PET Scans show areas with abnormally high, potentially cancerous metabolic activity. Different from other imaging tests, this test involves the patient ingesting a radioactive, glucose-based tracer that can be detected by the scan.
Blood tests look for biomarkers, or indicators of disease, and proteins that have been identified in mesothelioma patients. One of the more common biomarkers for mesothelioma, soluble mesothelin-related peptide (SMRP), can be detected with the FDA-approved MESOMARK test.
Biopsies provide information on the fluid or tissue sample taken from the patient. After lab evaluation, the presence of cancer, the origin in the body, and the type of cells involved can all be determined.
Symptoms of mesothelioma and other asbestos-related illnesses typically do not appear for 20-50 years after exposure, which often results in diagnosis at later stages of the disease. As research continues, it is important for those at higher risk from asbestos exposure to be aware of new and improved screening options for mesothelioma. Those suffering from mesothelioma may be entitled to compensation and should contact a Mesothelioma attorney immediately.