Diagnosis and Tests
What do the tests involve? Are they invasive?
If you may have been exposed to asbestos your doctor will listen to your lungs and request that you have a range of tests including chest x-ray, CT scan, and a respiratory lung function test. These tests will be carried out again over a period of time depending on your initial test results and, if there are signs of disease, monitor your disease progression. The majority of tests are not invasive; this means that you will not require surgery. However in the case of high-resolution CT scans, patients are exposed to a degree of radiation.
How long do the tests take? How many are required?
Your GP will discuss with you the number and type of tests you will be required to have. Generally, the tests do not take that long to perform, however you may have to book in for an appointment to schedule a test such as a CT scan.
Once the results are back your GP will discuss the results with you and what the next step will be. If you need to have more tests, your doctor will discuss this with you and go over the reasons why this may be necessary.
Can you give me any information on the tests and what the results may show?
There are a number of tests your GP might recommend you undergo for a range of asbestos-related diseases. These may include:
- Blood test – in this case you are given a particular substance – soluble mesothelian-related protein (SMRP) – which acts as a ‘marker’ of the disease and the level of concentration will make it possible to measure the extent to which disease is present.
- X-ray – a chest x-ray will be taken to determine whether there are any masses on the lungs.
- CT and MRI scans – if the chest x-rays show any signs of abnormalities, CT/MRI scans will be taken. Click here for more information on MRI scans. Click here for more information on what a CT scan is and how it is carried out.
- Sputum sample – may be taken from phlegm and analysed in a laboratory to assess whether there are cancer cells present.
- Thoracoscopy – a small thin tube with a camera attached will be inserted through a small cut into the chest in between two ribs to see the chest wall. Tissue samples may be removed for testing (this is called a biopsy).
- Laproscopy – is the same procedure, but done in the abdominal cavity.
- Peritoneoscope – may be performed to look inside the abdomen. Tissue may be biopsied.
- Mediatinoscopy – a small incision is made above the sternum in order to view lymph nodes.
- General respiratory testing (GRT)* – this tests your lung function which will help your doctor determine whether or not you have a lung disease.
*GRT will not only provide your doctor with a clinical overview but will also be of assistance if there is a future legal issue regarding compensation, as the legal profession accepts the results of this test.
Do I need to have someone with me? Will I be unwell after the tests?
You will not feel unwell after any of the tests, however most GPs will recommend that you have someone with you if possible. A friend or relative will be able to provide you with support and will assist in helping you obtain and understand information given to you by the medical staff.
Will I meet with my GP to discuss the results after the tests have been completed?
Your doctor will arrange for you to have an appointment after the tests have been completed to discuss the results with you. Your GP may also discuss further tests, specialists and treatment options with you.
What symptoms will I develop if I do have an asbestos-related disease?
The symptoms you may develop will depend upon the asbestos-related disease you have. Some people may develop symptoms such as breathlessness and pain while others may not experience any symptoms. However, you should discuss your diagnosis with your GP and they will inform you of the symptoms you may be likely to develop.
Do I have access to my notes?
You can discuss having access to your medical notes with your GP. However, as a general rule, you have a right to gain access to all information held about you and this may include your notes.
For more information visit the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner website health FAQs.
Will I have to be in hospital?
Some of the tests that your GP may request you to have may be conducted in a hospital, however this will only be as an outpatient for the duration of the test.