Mesothelioma is asbestos-related cancer. Inhaling asbestos fibers causes mesothelioma. The fibers travel into the lungs and settle in the pleural membrane. This Mesothelium, the pleural membrane, is the protective membrane that covers human organs. These asbestos fibers damage the cells of this membrane, and Mesothelioma occurs around those areas as a result of damaged DNA. We will discuss how to test mesothelioma in this article in detail.
In most cases, Malignant Mesothelioma generally develops after asbestos exposure. But this type of cancer is very hard to detect in the early stages. Because the symptoms of malignant Mesothelioma can appear 20-50 years later. Even it could take 40 years. Usually, people misunderstand these symptoms with other common illnesses.
Common Tests for Mesothelioma
Mesothelioma is a very rare type of cancer. For its long latent period, it can be very hard to detect. There are no such early screening tests for this malignant growth. People who have a history of asbestos exposure may be recommended by physicians for some regular and routine tests. There are several testing methods for Mesothelioma. Doctors recommend image testing, biopsy, blood test depending on the condition of patients.
The five most common types of tests for Mesothelioma are the following ones:
#1. Medical history and examination
#2. Imaging scans
Medical History Examination – The First Step to Test Mesothelioma
It is the first step in diagnosing any type of cancer. Doctor asks about the patient’s health, medical history, and work history to understand the probability of getting Mesothelioma. In this method, patients need to inform any previous exposure to asbestos to their physicians. People with working history in mining, military, and construction are at a significantly higher risk of developing this cancer.
This is the most common diagnostic test for malignant Mesothelioma. There are different types of imaging testing.
- X-ray is the first step to diagnose Mesothelioma. It can detect fluid build-up in the lungs and abdominal areas. If doctors predict any chance of Mesothelioma, they prescribe x-ray image scanning of the affected area. When the x-ray indicates an abnormal growth, or fluid in the area, the physician will suggest further tests for a clearer picture. X-ray is the basic test to understand a patient’s physical condition. It cannot confirm whether there are malignant tissues or not. This test can give only the primary impression.
- If doctors predict any unusual growth or fluid in an x-rayed area, they prescribe Computed Tomography (CT) scans. CT scans give a much clearer picture than an x-ray. But this test also cannot confirm the presence of malignant tissue accurately. It has its drawbacks. This test cannot differentiate between benign growths and malignant tissues. So, after CT scans, it is always needed for further studies.
- In Positron Emission Tomography (PET) scan, doctors use a low-dose sugary radioactive substance to detect malignant cells. They inject this substance into the patient’s body about one hour before the test. Malignant cells grow at a rapid speed. It requires a large quantity of sugar than other cells. Now the radioactive material inside a patient’s body can detect which cells (if any) are consuming more sugar. The scanning machine can identify the location of those cells. The test can also show if these cells have begun to spread. Doctors call it metastasis stage. PET scan is very useful to diagnose metastasis Mesothelioma. For more accurate results some doctors recommend PET-CT scans. In this type of scan, machines can perform a PET scan and a CT scan simultaneously.
- Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) scans are very similar but much more useful than CT scans. The difference between these two is MRI scan uses radio and magnetic waves instead of light waves to detect cancerous growth. These scans can identify tumors as opposed to a normal body. Before further treatment, doctors suggest this type of scan to diagnose Mesothelioma.
- In this method, specialists use ultrasound waves to take an image. Doctors recommend echocardiograms in pericardial Mesothelioma or abdominal Mesothelioma detection. This scan can detect how well the heart is functioning and any fluid buildup around the heart.
Blood Sample Tests
Mesothelioma increases the levels of fibulin-3, soluble Mesothelin-related peptides (SMRPs) within the blood. These substances can be found through various blood sample tests.
- Mesothelioma increases the levels of fibulin-3 in the blood. That is why this blood test is very effective and a new biomarker for malignant Mesothelioma diagnosis. Doctors believe this test could assist in the early detection of this type of Mesothelioma. Experts say Fibulin-3 Test can also detect the progression of this cancer.
- This blood test is helpful to diagnose malignant Mesothelioma. Mesothelioma increases the levels of soluble Mesothelin-related peptides (SMRPs) in the blood. So, this blood test can measure the amount of SMRP in the blood. This method can be used in the early diagnosis of Mesothelioma. By measuring the amount of SMRP in the bloodstream, the MESOMARK can help experts monitor patients with the risk of developing malignant Mesothelioma. Sometimes doctors use this blood test to determine how well a patient responds to treatment.
- Like fibulin-3 and soluble Mesothelin-related peptides (SMRPs), the amount of Osteopontin increases in the blood of a person suffering from Mesothelioma. It is a naturally occurring protein. Osteopontin test can determine whether a patient has malignant cells or not. But it is not able to determine the kind of cancer. To understand whether the cancer is Mesothelioma or not, doctors recommend additional testing.
Fluid or Tissue Biopsy
The most conclusive test for any kind of cancer is a biopsy. There are several types of biopsies, like surgical, non-surgical, and needle biopsies.
- It is the most common method in Mesothelioma diagnosis. In this type of surgical biopsy, surgeons make incisions in the patient’s chest and use video-assisted thoracoscopic surgery (VATS) to perform the biopsy using tiny tools guided by a camera.
Fine Needle Biopsy
- If a Thoracoscopy isn’t possible, a non-surgical fine needle biopsy may be used to collect the samples of cells from an affected area. In this type of biopsy, the specialist inserts a hollow, long, skinny needle to collect sample cells from the suspected area. After collecting those samples, a pathologist examines those cells.
Pulmonary Function Tests
Doctors recommend this test for a person suffering from malignant Mesothelioma. Through this method, a doctor can determine how well the patient’s lungs are currently functioning. This test is important for further aggressive treatment because doctors often treat Mesothelioma through lung removal surgery. If the result of the pulmonary function test shows that both of the lungs are strong, the patients could be able to undergo surgery that might extend their lives.
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