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29

Nurse Encourages Mesothelioma Screening for Family Members in the Case of Secondhand Asbestos Exposure


A mesothelioma doctor checking the lung x-rayMesothelioma is difficult enough to deal with when your loved one has been diagnosed with the disease. But if that is not enough to deal with, there is one more thing to think about: could it be possible that you are also susceptible to developing mesothelioma? Many people know where they were exposed to asbestos, but others may be unaware that they were exposed at all. Some people were exposed to asbestos after their parents or grandparents inadvertently brought the asbestos fibers home on their clothes from their jobs where asbestos was present. It is possible to develop mesothelioma from this secondhand exposure.

Although it may only be one offspring that demonstrates mesothelioma symptoms and seeks medical attention, my advice would be that all other family members be tested for mesothelioma. I recently ran into a patient who was diagnosed with mesothelioma, after her sister was diagnosed. Unfortunately, it does not stop there; another sibling has subsequently been diagnosed with the asbestos cancer.

Researchers have done a lot of work in this area. They have found that some people have an inherited gene that makes the patient predisposed to developing mesothelioma once exposed to asbestos. Not everyone exposed to asbestos will develop the disease, but if someone in your family has it is imperative to get yourself tested. Now, it is possible to be diagnosed early and without any symptoms evident. If you are not feeling symptomatic and you are diagnosed with mesothelioma, it could be in the early stages where you have the most favorable outcome.

Although this can be very scary, it is in the best interest of you and your family to know. It is hard to wrap your head around this, that you too could be affected with mesothelioma, but it may save your life.

Diagnosis with mesothelioma is usually confirmed with a biopsy. Every cancer center does testing differently, but it usually starts with a biopsy where a tissue sample is collected and sent to the pathology lab. When someone develops fluid around the lung, and has to have it drained or tapped, a sample of the fluid can also be sent off for pathology.

Tissue and fluid samples are the most common means of diagnosing mesothelioma, but a blood test can also help doctors identify the disease. The presence of molecular indicators called “biomarkers” can aid not only with diagnosis, but also with predicting disease aggressiveness. A mesothelioma biomarker test looks for a certain blood protein that is released by mesothelioma cells.

The protein is called SMRP, or soluble mesothelin-related peptide. The meso-marker measures the amount of SMRP in a person’s blood. Abnormally high levels may indicate the presence of mesothelioma. (The sarcomatoid type of mesothelioma tumors does not release this protein.) The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recommends physicians use this meso-marker assay in addition to traditional biopsies.

If you have questions about your mesothelioma treatment or any aspect of your mesothelioma care, feel free to contact us.

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