Just about any oncologist will tell you that mesothelioma is one of the most difficult cancers to catch early. For decades, in fact, early diagnosis has pretty much been an impossibility, largely due to the latency period between the contraction of the disease and the display of symptoms. By the time the symptoms became apparent, mesothelioma patients have usually already progressed to stage 3 or 4 cancer with no hope for recovery and little that can be done as far as mesothelioma treatment is concerned, with the exception of palliative measures that might lessen pain and discomfort.
Testing for Early Diagnosis
Those who know they’ve been exposed to asbestos should be diligent in scheduling periodic tests to determine whether or not they’ve been adversely affected. Getting as early a diagnosis as possible is crucial! Talk to your doctor about scheduling a lung x-ray at least once or twice a year and, if any abnormalities are seen, follow the x-ray with a more sophisticated form of imaging that can provide a clearer picture, such as an MRI or CT scan.
Sometimes, labor unions, doctor’s offices, or law firms sponsor mass screenings for those at a particular work site or in a particular industry who may have been exposed to asbestos.
Progress, however, is being made in the field of early diagnosis of mesothelioma in the hopes that the disease can soon be caught at earlier stages. A few years ago, a Japanese company invented a blood test for mesothelioma, known as Mesomark. The test measures the blood serum concentrations of a marker called soluble mesothelin-related protein (SMRP). High levels of SMRP may indicate the presence of mesothelioma. The test is readily available in Australia, New Zealand, and parts of Europe, and in June 2007, it became available in the United States. The Mesomark test is as simple as a standard blood test and is performed at a doctor’s office. Potential mesothelioma sufferers should ask their doctor if they are a candidate for this test.
Research continues into other ways to recognize mesothelioma in its early stages, when more options are available for treatment, including surgery.