Mesothelioma is undoubtedly the deadliest form of cancer, and is considered by most physicians and medical professionals to be fatal due to the difficulty in diagnosing the cancer in time for any treatment to be effective. In fact, one study showed that on average, patients live only 242 days after diagnosis. Because the typical symptoms of mesothelioma are oftentimes indications of more common, less serious conditions, it is important for those who may have been exposed to asbestos to mention their exposure to their physician so that the physician can take the proper steps to ensure that the patient is not suffering from mesothelioma. If you or a loved one may have been exposed to asbestos, more information is available to aid you in taking the proper steps to ensure your health.
Mesothelioma is caused by exposure to asbestos dust or particles. From the time of exposure it can take twenty to fifty years before the symptoms manifest. Generally, the disease begins within the mesothelium (the lining of the body that protects the organs such as the lungs, the heart and parts of the abdomen) and can easily spread to the other parts of the body.
There are three different types of mesothelioma and each has different symptoms.
- Pleural mesothelioma – attacks the lining and the cavity of the lungs. Symptoms, as the disease advances, include: chest pain as the lungs fill with fluid along with shortness of breath, a tightening sensation in the chest, persist coughing, rasping, difficulty in swallowing, coughing of blood, fever and weight loss. As tumor masses expand, the individual may experience a pneumothorax, or collapse of the lung. Typically, pleural tumors are only found on one side of the lungs.
- Peritoneal mesothelioma – attacks the areas in the stomach and abdomen of a person. This type of mesothelioma is very painful as the tumors press on the wall of the abdomen. Symptoms include: stomach pains and swelling in the abdomen, which is caused by a buildup of fluid in the abdomen known as ascites, and may involve pain as severe as a ruptured appendix. As the disease advances, intense pain in the chest, difficulty breathing, anemia, abnormal clots in the blood, rapid weight loss (called cachexia), constipation, fever and vomiting, pain, trouble swallowing, and swelling of the neck and face.
- Pericardial mesothelioma – attacks the lining to the heart and surrounding area. This is the rarest form of mesothelioma. Symptoms includes severe chest pains, palpitations, labored breathing and coughing. Correctly diagnosing pericardial mesothelioma is difficult, as a result of the ambiguous nature of its symptoms.
In all types of severe mesothelioma, the patient may experience blood clots in the veins, which may lead to thrombophlebitis, disseminated intravascular coagulation, a serious disorder causing internal bleeding within the body organs, pleural effusion, blood clots in the arteries of the lungs, ascites, and jaudice. Unlike other forms of cancer, mesothelioma does not usually spread to the adrenal glands, the blood, or the brain.
The warning signs of mesothelioma should never be ignored and again, it’s important when seeing a family physician to mention any possible asbestos exposure in the past to aid in early detection of the disease.