Screening for Mesothelioma: New French Tool May Help

screening for mesothelioma

Researchers in France say they have come up with a highly accurate way of screening for mesothelioma and lung cancer. 

A new study shows their method, which includes a job history, a questionnaire, and an in-person interview, is 100 percent accurate at identifying people with asbestos cancer.

If it can be confirmed in a larger group of patients, the tool may allow for easier and earlier diagnostic screening for mesothelioma.

The Challenge of Screening for Mesothelioma

Malignant mesothelioma is a fast-growing cancer with a dismal prognosis. Earlier diagnosis might help, but the disease produces few symptoms until it is very advanced. By the time mesothelioma symptoms like chest pain and coughing appear, it is often too late for treatment to do much good.

Malignant mesothelioma is most common in people who have worked around asbestos. Researchers have tried to find ways to screen exposed workers. 

CT scanning may highlight early signs of mesothelioma. But it is also expensive and time consuming, making it impractical for routine screening for mesothelioma. 

A faster, less expensive tool has the potential to improve outcomes and save lives. 

Powerful Three-Part Screening System

Researchers with Raymond-Poincaré Hospital in Garches, France believe they may have developed such a tool. They say their three-part system is an easy and accurate way of screening for mesothelioma.  

They tested the tool on fifty patients hospitalized for either lung cancer or pleural mesothelioma between 2016 and 2017.

Each patient submitted a job history. The information went into job-exposure matrices developed by the researchers. Occupational medicine residents who input the information did not know which disease each patient had. 

The second part was a questionnaire. The third part of the screening for mesothelioma or lung cancer was a one-on-one conversation.

“The patients…had a consultation with a chief resident in occupational medicine, considered the gold standard,” writes lead author Eric Lorentz. 

Accurate Screening for Mesothelioma

The residents who collected the information from patients did not know each patients’ diagnosis in advance. But with the exposure matrices, they identified mesothelioma and lung cancer with 100 percent accuracy.

The asbestos exposure matrices ruled out mesothelioma with 76 percent accuracy. Ruling out a disease – called test sensitivity – is vital for making an accurate mesothelioma diagnosis. 

“The matrices and the questionnaire have a great diagnostic performance which seems interesting for use as a screening tool for occupational exposures.” the team concludes. 

They say a larger study should confirm the method before doctors use it in screening for mesothelioma. 


Lorentz, E, et al, “[Screening of occupational exposure to asbestos and silica by job-exposure matrix among patients with lung cancer and mesothelioma]”, November 11, 2019, Review of Respiratory Diseases, Epub ahead of print,

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