Screening Tests For Mesothelioma

Mesothelioma is a very rare form of cancer that affects the pleural membranes (coverings of the lungs), the peritoneal membranes (coverings of the abdominal organs) or the pericardium (covering of the heart). Mesothelioma is generally seen in people exposed to asbestos. The tumor often takes years to develop and screening people exposed to asbestos remains the only option for early intervention against this disease. People who have held jobs in the construction, shipbuilding and manufacturing industry need to be screened routinely. The following screening tests can be useful to diagnose mesothelioma.


Imaging tests like a simple chest X-Ray, CT Scans, and Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) are often very useful and they may show thick, nodular masses on the pleural surface.

Needle Biopsies:

Under a local anaesthetic, the doctor will insert a large, hollow needle into the chest cavity. The needle is rotated and withdrawn to collect a sample of the tissue in the process. The sample is then examined in the laboratory for malignant cells. The needle biopsy is only about 40% accurate.

Open Biopsy:

This is one of the most accurate methods to diagnose mesothelioma. A larger tissue sample is often obtained with an open biopsy. However the procedure is performed under general anaesthetic.


Cytology of the pleural fluid has little value in diagnosing mesothelioma and is not routinely performed. Almost 85% of the times cytology is negative or inconclusive despite the presence of mesothelioma. Cytology can be performed in conjunction with a biopsy.

Even with the best screening techniques available today, mesothelioma escapes detection. Early screening and routine screening are crucial in people exposed to asbestos in order to prevent serious consequences. Whilst there are no definite cures yet, the speed at which medicine is making progress a cure for mesothelioma should definitely be around the corner. Till then early detection remains the best possible weapon against this disease. Victims of mesothelioma should take appropriate action against their former employers and should get in touch with lawyers who have experience handling these issues.

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