There are a number of different methods used to diagnose various types of cancer. Examining the levels of certain tumor markers is one of such diagnostic methods that can be used to diagnose mesothelioma.
What is a Tumor Marker?
Tumor markers are best described as substances produced by tumor cells (or sometimes other cells) in the body in response to certain cancerous and non-cancerous conditions. They are usually found in the blood, urine, or tissue of patients. Using tumor markers to diagnose cancer can be difficult because tumor marker levels are not altered in all patients with cancer. Even levels of the same tumor marker can be altered in more than one type of cancer. Some of these substances can also found at elevated levels when other non-cancerous diseases are present.
What are Tumor Markers Used For?
1- Early Detection
Tumor markers are a good starting point in the detection of cancer. While an elevated level of a particular tumor marker does not necessarily indicate the definite presence of cancer, it does indicate the need for further testing. The additional tests may include a biopsy, CT scan, or MRI.
2- Monitoring of Response to treatment
In addition to being used for the diagnosis of cancer, tumor markers can also be measured to determine how a patient is responding to treatment. Marker levels will often be measured before treatment begins to determine the correct course of action when addressing cancer. Tumor marker levels can further be used to determine whether a patient has suffered a recurrence of their cancer.
3-Screening for mesothelioma
This is a process during which cancer can be detected before symptoms are evident. Many researchers believe tumor markers aren’t sensitive enough to be used for screening, yet one tumor marker, the prostate-specific antigen (PSA), has been used for the screening of prostate cancer among men for several years and has shown much success. However, an elevated PSA level does not necessarily indicate cancer but does indicate the need for further testing.
Tumor Markers That Are Used To Diagnose Mesothelioma
A test approved recently by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is now being used to screen for mesothelioma among individuals at risk for the disease. Because mesothelioma symptoms do not usually surface until after a long latency period, this new test, called Mesomark blood test, could make the difference between life and death for mesothelioma patients.
Mesomark measures the amount of Soluble Mesothelin-Related Peptides (SMRP) in human serum. SMRP is a tumor marker that is produced by mesothelioma cells. This tumor marker may be elevated in mesothelioma patients even in the very early stages of the disease.