There’s a long list of tradesmen and tradeswomen who are candidates for developing mesothelioma. No doubt, if they realize they’ve been exposed, these individuals worry constantly about the possibility that the disease will soon surface, and because it takes up to 50 years for mesothelioma to appear, it’s a worry that’s consistently present in the back of the mind and one that can be paralyzing.
The truth remains that if you once worked with asbestos-containing materials, especially on a consistent basis, you may have inhaled airborne asbestos fibers. These fibers can lodge in your chest area and eventually form tumors. It’s difficult to know when these tumors will form due to mesothelioma’s long latency period, but you can do a few things to put your mind at ease including undergoing some mesothelioma tests.
Many doctors recommend that asbestos-exposed individuals regularly undergo a lung or “pulmonary” function test, which will help determine whether or not your lungs are working at regular capacity. Such a test cannot diagnosis mesothelioma but it can detect precursors to mesothelioma such as pulmonary fibrosis, scarring of the lung tissue. If test results indicate that your lung function is compromised, more tests will be ordered.
Potential mesothelioma victims can also take advantage of a simple blood test that was developed about 5 years ago to provide earlier detection of asbestos cancer. This test, the Mesomark© assay, is the first serum-based biomarker sensitive for mesothelioma.
Specifically, it measures the levels of Soluble Mesothelin-Related Peptides (SMRPs) released into the bloodstream by mesothelioma cells. These levels can be elevated for several years before the disease is actually diagnosed, which gives doctors a jump-start on treatment. The assay can also assist with routine monitoring once the disease is diagnosed.
Once a doctor is relatively sure that his patient has mesothelioma – or at least some form of lung disease – he will probably order more mesothelioma tests. These may follow x-rays, which are usually the first imaging tests to indicate a problem.
Logically, the next step will be for the patient to undergo more sophisticated imaging tests such as CT scans or MRIs. Both of these can provide a more sophisticated and exacting picture of the area where the cancer is located and can help determine the stage of the cancer and the best ways to treat it.
Chances are that the mesothelioma patient will have further scans like these during the course of treatment for their disease as these and other scans – such as the PET scan – are used to measure the disease’s progress.
A doctor may also order a biopsy to determine the definitive presence of cancer. This kind of mesothelioma test draws a tissue or fluid sample from the affected area. That sample is then turned over to a pathologist, who studies it to determine whether cancer cells are present.
Various procedures can be used for the biopsy, depending on the location of the tumor. A thoracoscopic biopsy is usually used for pleural mesothelioma patients while those with peritoneal mesothelioma generally undergo a fine-needle aspiration biopsy.
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