Recognizing the Symptoms of Mesothelioma
Mesothelioma is a deadly form of cancer that affects people who have been exposed to asbestos. Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral that was once mined and utilized in great quantities across the United States and worldwide. Commercial and industrial asbestos use peaked in the U.S. in the middle of the 20th century, but it had already become apparent that the mineral was causing serious health problems. The U.S. government began regulating asbestos in the 1970s based on its link to mesothelioma, lung cancer, asbestosis, respiratory disorders and other serious health problems. Unfortunately, the extensive regulation of asbestos came too late for many people who had already been exposed.
Asbestos fibers are easily inhaled and ingested. Once they are introduced into the body, they may become encased in the mesothelium, the lining of the organs and body cavities. They may become lodged in the pleura (lining of the lungs), peritoneum (lining of the abdomen) or pericardium (lining of the heart). The body cannot easily expel asbestos fibers that have become encased in these areas, and they may keep there for many years, causing irritation, inflammation and the eventual development of cancerous cells. This form of cancer is called mesothelioma.
As with any form of cancer and most medical conditions, an early diagnosis is crucial if a patient is to have the best chance at survival. Unfortunately the symptoms can be difficult to recognize because of their similarity to symptoms of shared medical conditions and mesothelioma’s long latency period. Chronic cough, chest pain, abdominal pain and other similar ailments may be shrugged off as symptoms of minor illnesses. They may be quite mild at first. A patient may not already consider mesothelioma as a possible issue because so much time has elapsed since asbestos exposure occurred. According to one study, it took patients as long as 39 months from the initial presentation of symptoms to receive appropriate treatment.
The majority of mesothelioma patients are diagnosed with pleural mesothelioma, which affects the lining of the lungs and chest cavity. The most shared symptoms of this condition include shortness of breath, chest pain, chronic cough, limited or reduced chest expansion, fatigue and weight loss. A patient may also experience chest pain or painful breathing, fever or night sweats and may cough up blood.
Symptoms of peritoneal mesothelioma, which affects the lining of the abdominal organs and cavity, include abdominal pain and swelling, changes in bowel habits or function, weight loss, fatigue, lumps under the skin of the abdomen, anemia, nausea, night sweats and fever.
Pericardial mesothelioma is extremely scarce. This form of cancer affects the lining of the heart. Some reported symptoms include irregular heartbeat, chest pain, chronic cough, difficulty breathing, heart murmur, fatigue, night sweats and fever. Additional symptoms may be reported as more patients are diagnosed and data is collected.
It may take approximately 20 to 50 years from exposure to asbestos minerals for a patient to experience symptoms of mesothelioma and seek medical treatment. These symptoms may vary slightly depending on the kind of mesothelioma in addition as the patient’s age, overall health and preexisting medical conditions, if any. If you notice these symptoms and have a history of asbestos exposure, it is important to seek medical attention as soon as possible – already if you feel that you are not seriously ill. A chronic cough or shortness of breath may be signs that cancerous cells have developed in your lung tissue or the lining of your chest or lungs. Tell your doctor what symptoms you are experiencing and inform him or her of your history with asbestos. already if you did not work directly with or around the mineral, you may have experienced secondary exposure from a family member. complete disclosure will help your doctor determine what tests need to be run and whether to refer you to a specialist to confirm the diagnosis.
More than 2,000 people are diagnosed with mesothelioma each year; this number is expected to peak in 2020. According to estimates by the National Institute of Health, approximately 11 million people were exposed to asbestos from 1940 to 1978. People exposed in the 60s, 70s and possibly already the 50s may only now be experiencing the symptoms of mesothelioma. Reports and diagnoses may nevertheless be made for years into the future. Though asbestos was regulated in the 1970s, people were nevertheless exposed in buildings, vessels, shipyards and other places where asbestos was present. Older buildings and products may nevertheless contain asbestos, meaning people today may nevertheless be at risk of exposure.