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Can Malignant Mesothelioma Be Found Early?

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Mesothelioma is rare, and there are no 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 who are known to have been exposed to asbestos, some doctors recommend regular imaging tests, like 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's not clear how useful these tests are in finding mesotheliomas early.

Doctors have found that people with mesothelioma have high levels of certain substances in their blood, including fibulin-3 and soluble mesothelin-related peptides (SMRPs). Researchers continue to study how blood tests for these substances might help find mesotheliomas early, as well as how they might be used to monitor the course of the disease in people who have mesothelioma.

Most mesotheliomas are found when a person goes to a doctor because of symptoms, most often chest pain and shortness of breath. People who have been exposed to asbestos should know the possible signs and symptoms of mesothelioma. Many of these symptoms are more likely to be caused by something other than mesothelioma. Still, it’s important to report any new symptoms to a health care provider right away so that the cause can be found and treated, if needed.

The American Cancer Society medical and editorial content team

Our team is made up of doctors and oncology certified nurses with deep knowledge of cancer care as well as journalists, editors, and translators with extensive experience in medical writing.

Jain SV, Wallen JM. Cancer, Mesothelioma, Malignant. StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2018 Jan-2018 Jul 18.

National Comprehensive Cancer Network, Clinical Practice Guidelines in Oncology (NCCN Guidelines®), Malignant Pleural Mesothelioma, Version 2.2018 -- February 26, 2018. Accessed at on October 26, 2018.

Rokicki W, Rokicki M, Wojtacha J, Rydel MK. Malignant mesothelioma as a difficult interdisciplinary problem. Kardiochir Torakochirurgia Pol. 2017;14(4):263-267.

Last Revised: November 16, 2018

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