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Is There a Test for Asbestos Exposure?

Asbestos Exposure

Mesothelioma is a type of cancer that is found in the thin layer of tissue called the mesothelium. The mesothelium surrounds most of the body’s internal organs. While mesothelioma is incurable, early detection and treatment can prolong patients’ lives.

Most individuals with mesothelioma do not see a doctor until they develop symptoms. Symptoms usually show up years after a person’s initial exposure to a substance called asbestos, which is the leading cause of the disease.

However, there is new hope for anyone who thinks they may have been exposed to asbestos. Although there is currently no blood test to detect asbestos exposure, several blood tests in development are showing promise they can detect certain cancer markers for mesothelioma up to a decade before symptoms appear. These tests do not necessarily detect asbestos exposure, but they do detect proteins that indicate mesothelioma is likely to develop.

That means patients can start treatment earlier and possibly catch the disease before it spreads throughout the body, improving quality of life and increasing survival rates.

What is Mesothelioma?

Mesothelioma is a rare and aggressive form of cancer that affects the tissue that primarily surrounds the lungs and less commonly around the abdomen, heart, and testicles.

Signs of pleural mesothelioma, the most common form affecting the lungs, include:

  • Chest pain
  • Fever
  • Loss of appetite
  • Night sweats
  • Painful coughing
  • Shortness of breath
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Unusual lumps under the skin of the chest

What is Asbestos?

Asbestos is a substance found naturally in the environment. It consists of strong, durable fibers that are resistant to heat. For that reason, asbestos was widely used in different products and building materials, including insulation, roofing shingles, and certain types of flooring.

When asbestos fibers are broken up, they create a dust. Asbestos fibers can be swallowed or inhaled and settle into the lungs or abdomen. Over time, those fibers cause irritation that may eventually develop into mesothelioma. It can take anywhere from 10 to 40 years after the initial exposure for symptoms to develop. Some individuals who get sick may not even recall if or when they encountered asbestos. Not every person exposed to asbestos fibers will develop mesothelioma, which suggests other factors may contribute to the disease.

Are There Blood Tests That Detect Cancer?

There is no definitive cure for mesothelioma, only treatment options to slow the progression of the cancer, reduce symptoms, and prolong life. However, there are several tests available to detect various biomarkers that indicate a risk of mesothelioma:

  • Fibulin-3 Test: Researchers believe that elevated levels of a glycoprotein called fubulin-3 in human plasma is a potentially reliable indicator of pleural mesothelioma.
  • Human MPF Elisa Kit: This blood tests measures the megakaryocyte-potentiating factor (MPF) in certain genes, which can indicate the risk of developing mesothelioma.
  • MESOMARK Blood Test: The MESOMARK test analyzes the presence of soluble mesothelin-related peptides (SMRP) in human serum, which can possibly aid in the detection of mesothelioma.
  • SOMAmer Blood Test: This test is highly accurate and detects 13 different biomarkers for mesothelioma.

How can Blood Tests Help Patients?

Blood tests cannot cure mesothelioma or even prevent it, but they can tell doctors that a patient is a prime candidate to develop the condition within the next 10 years. That way, health care providers can start chemotherapy, surgery, and other treatments years earlier, possibly catching the cancer before it spreads throughout the body.

These blood tests are not substitutes for X-rays, echocardiograms, PET scans, MRI scans, and needle biopsies to detect cancer and its progression. An individual should always consult a doctor if they believe they have been exposed to asbestos or have any unusual symptoms.

Is There a Cure for Mesothelioma?

There is no definitive cure for mesothelioma. Once mesothelioma is confirmed, the doctor orders additional tests to assess the extent of the cancer and determine the best course of treatment. If it is caught in an early stage and removed, it can be slowed.

However detecting mesothelioma early is rare because this type of cancer is highly aggressive. The goal for most patients is to slow the spread of mesothelioma and reduce symptoms.

How is Mesothelioma Treated?

Using the various diagnostic and imaging tests, the doctor assigns a stage to the cancer and a plan for treatment. Some treatment options for mesothelioma include:

  • Chemotherapy: Chemotherapy introduces certain chemicals into the body to kill cancer cells and shrink or stall growth of mesothelioma that cannot be surgically removed.
  • Radiation Therapy: Radiation therapy focuses on certain parts of the body, often to kill cancer cells that remain after surgery.
  • Surgery: Various surgical procedures are used to treat mesothelioma. They include surgery to remove tumors, fluid buildup, and affected tissue.
  • Clinical Trials: Clinical trials are new and developing treatment methods. Since they are not approved to treat or cure the condition, there are no guarantees. Patients should discuss available options and weigh the risks and advantages to determine if a clinic trial makes sense for them.

How can I Prevent Asbestos Exposure?

The best way to prevent mesothelioma is to protect against asbestos exposure. In most cases, mesothelioma patients were exposed to asbestos at work. Some trades at risk include:

  • Asbestos miners
  • Auto workers
  • Carpenters
  • Demolition workers
  • Drywallers
  • Electricians
  • Garbage and sanitation workers
  • Home remodeling
  • Insulation
  • Military
  • Painters
  • Pipefitters
  • Plumbers
  • Railroad workers
  • Shipyard employees

Employers in these sectors should have training, protective equipment, and safety practices in place to protect workers. All required protective safety gear should be provided, and workers who encounter asbestos should shower and change their clothes before going home.

What if I was Exposed to Asbestos at Work?

Employers have a duty to provide a safe work environment to their employees, which includes protecting them from exposure to asbestos. Obtaining Workers’ Compensation benefits is one way to help ill employees recover the costs for their care. These benefits pay for medical bills and lost income for employees who are unable to work.

In Pennsylvania, those who develop work-related mesothelioma symptoms and complications have a tight deadline to file for Workers’ Compensation benefits. That is why it is important to contact a lawyer as soon as possible.

The challenge with mesothelioma is that symptoms may not show up for years after the person first inhaled or swallowed the asbestos fibers. The person may even be long retired before they get sick. In that case, a Workers’ Compensation claim will not help, so the person may be able to choose to sue.

When can I File a Mesothelioma Lawsuit?

Someone who develops mesothelioma may have grounds to file a lawsuit against the person or company who knowingly exposed them to asbestos without their knowledge. If the lawyer can build the case showing the exposure occurred and that exposure caused the client’s cancer, the client can possibly recover damages, such as lost income, lost earning potential, medical bills, and pain and suffering.

If the victim unfortunately passes away from mesothelioma, a lawyer can file a claim on behalf of their estate to assist the family. In Pennsylvania, surviving family members have two years from the date of their loved ones’ passing to take legal action.

Unlike many other forms of cancer, doctors understand the primary cause of mesothelioma. While no definitive cure exists, new and emerging blood tests show promise for early detection. That gives those more likely to develop the disease a head start in slowing its progression.

The key to preventing mesothelioma is eliminating asbestos exposure. Victims who are exposed without their knowledge or without appropriate safety measures in place should consider taking legal action against the person or company whose negligence caused their deadly disease.

Philadelphia Mesothelioma Lawyers at Brookman, Rosenberg, Brown & Sandler Advocate for Victims of Asbestos Exposure

Several new blood tests may be able to show cancer markers for mesothelioma, which gives hope to many people and experts. However, those exposed to asbestos can still develop mesothelioma. The Philadelphia mesothelioma lawyers at Brookman, Rosenberg, Brown & Sandler represent victims of asbestos exposure. With dedication and compassion, we will review every detail of your case and recommend the best legal course of action. Call us at 215-569-4000 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation. Located in Philadelphia, we serve clients throughout New Jersey and Pennsylvania, including Delaware County, Chester County, and Philadelphia County.