Can malignant mesothelioma be found early?
Mesothelioma is uncommon, and there are no widely recommended screening tests for this cancer in people who are not at increased risk. (Screening is testing for cancer in people who don't have any symptoms.)
For people with known exposure to asbestos, some doctors recommend imaging tests such as chest x-rays or computed tomography (CT) scans to look for changes in the lungs that might be signs of mesothelioma or lung cancer. But it is not clear how useful these tests are in finding mesotheliomas early.
In recent years, doctors have found that people with mesothelioma often have high levels of certain substances in their blood, including osteopontin and soluble mesothelin-related peptides (SMRPs). Blood tests for these substances may one day be useful in finding mesotheliomas early, although right now they are used mainly to monitor the course of the disease in people who are already known to have mesothelioma.
Most mesotheliomas are found when a person goes to a doctor because of symptoms. People who have been exposed to asbestos should know the possible signs and symptoms of mesothelioma (see the section, “How is malignant mesothelioma diagnosed?”). Many of these symptoms are more likely to be caused by something other than mesothelioma, but it's important to report any new symptoms to your doctor right away so that the cause can be found and treated, if needed.
Last Medical Review: 09/20/2012
Last Revised: 09/20/2012