The average time from initial symptoms, such as shortness of breath or chest pain, to diagnosis of mesothelioma is approximately three months. The latency of mesothelioma, the period after exposure to asbestos and before initial symptoms occur, is about 20-50 years. Early detection of cancer, when it is small and before it has spread, often allows more treatment options. Some early cancers may have signs and symptoms that are noticed, but this is not always the case.
Asbestos has a very long latency period. It can take 20 to 50 years for mesothelioma symptoms to appear. Because of the long latency period of asbestos, many patients with mesothelioma are not diagnosed until the late stages of the disease. That's why early detection and medical intervention are important to extend life expectancy.
Although there is no cure for mesothelioma, if the disease is found in its early stages, treatment options and outcomes do improve. However, because the time between the first exposure to asbestos and the diagnosis of mesothelioma is usually between 20 and 50 years, the disease is usually detected when it is advanced. In addition to the time it takes for the disease to develop and symptoms, diagnosis is often delayed because these symptoms resemble other, more common conditions. Because people confuse these symptoms with other minor ailments, they will take their time to go to the doctor or ignore their symptoms altogether.
The main test for staging mesothelioma is a CT scan. You may have had a CT scan before when mesothelioma was suspected or during a CT-guided core needle biopsy. If the CT scan showed advanced disease, an additional CT scan may not be necessary. There is currently no reliable screening test for mesothelioma.
At the moment, it may be difficult to diagnose mesothelioma. Common tests for lung disease often appear to be negative. If your doctor thinks you may have mesothelioma, the first step is usually a chest x-ray. You should have your X-ray within two weeks and then you should receive your results within five business days.
The MPF test is used to detect megakaryocyte potentiating factor (MPF), a protein found in the blood of patients with mesothelioma. For example, blood tests that detect levels of three substances in the blood (fibulib-3, osteopontin, and soluble mesothelin-related peptides (SMRP)) help doctors determine the possibility of mesothelioma in people who have no symptoms or few symptoms. In addition, there are several screening methods available or under development that could detect mesothelioma early. As mentioned, doctors and researchers are working hard to develop screening tests that could identify mesothelioma early.