Because asbestos fibers are too small to be seen with the naked eye, there is no way to know if you are ingesting or inhaling them. Fortunately, there are many ways to find out if you have been exposed. One of the most common ways is a chest X-ray.
Though a chest X-ray cannot detect the asbestos fibers themselves, it can detect early signs of disease caused by asbestos. Other tests, such as computer-aided tomography (CAT scan) and lung scanning are useful in detecting changes in the lungs, and biopsy is another option. Doctors may use X-ray and CAT scans to detect changes to the abdomen as well (peritoneal mesothelioma), and other tests such as laparoscopy may be used to look inside the abdomen and biopsy any peritoneal tumors.
Other newer, effective options include blood tests such as Osteopontin and Soluble mesothelin-related peptides (SMRPs), detected with the MesoMark. These tests were developed after researchers discovered that blood levels of certain substances are often higher in people with mesothelioma.
Note that certain symptoms could be a sign of asbestos exposure or disease as well. The most common include chest pain, shortness of breath, painful coughing, fatigue, unexplained weight loss, difficulty swallowing, abdominal pain and swelling, or lumps of tissue in the abdomen.
If you think you may have been exposed to asbestos, see your doctor right away. He can refer you to a mesothelioma specialist who can establish a monitoring plan that could help detect the disease at an earlier stage. Studies show that early diagnosis increases treatment options, which could greatly improve your chances of long-term survival.
American Cancer Society. American Cancer Society, Inc., 2017. Web. 17 Oct. 2017.
"Mesothelioma Symptoms." Mayo Clinic. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 23 Oct. 2015. Web. 17 Oct. 2017.
"Health Affects: Asbestos." Minnesota Department of Health. Minnesota Department of Health, 2017. Web. 17 Oct. 2017.