Even with all the advances that modern medical science has achieved over the centuries, it is still an unfortunate fact that a dangerous disease can be misdiagnosed and left untreated, simply because the symptoms presented are like so many other benign conditions. Mesothelioma disease symptoms fall into that category, as many of the symptoms this rare, yet aggressive form of cancer presents resemble less serious conditions like the flu. With recent rises in the number of cases being reported in the last decade, perhaps it is time that the public become more familiar with known information about the disease, its causes, and its symptoms.
What Is Mesothelioma?
Mesothelioma is a rare form of cancer that has been linked to exposure to the mineral fibers of asbestos. If inhaled or ingested accidentally, the fibers can lodge themselves within the lining of the lungs, the abdomen or the heart. There are three forms of malignant Mesothelioma: pleural, peritoneal, and pericardial. There is also a fourth form, that of benign Mesothelioma, a non-lethal form that can still cause a host of health problems with its presence.
Causes Of Mesothelioma
This form of cancer has been linked directly to the mineral fibers of asbestos, that was once used the world over in various form for insulation purposes in all kinds of industries. Workers exposed to it were primarily male, and to this day, the majority of patients appearing with some form of Mesothelioma are males around the age of 60 or older. The main reason for the advanced age of patients diagnosed with this aggressive cancer is that it is slow in developing, with a growth rate of between 15 and 50 years, in some cases.
Direct exposure to asbestos is not the only cause for developing Mesothelioma. There have been cases of second hand exposure reported, where the patient lived with someone who had been exposed during their lifetime, and may have inhaled or ingested the dust that asbestos often leaves behind by handling their clothing, or even by living in an area where asbestos was once used.
Even though its use in manufacturing and construction had been banned decades ago, sites where it was used and mined still exist, as do many of the items created containing it, like ships, cars and most importantly, homes with asbestos insulation in attics and walls. Recent cases reported came from contractors and emergency personnel that were exposed by accident, through renovating older homes, or in emergency situations, like the first responders during 9/11. Because it takes so long to develop in the body, children and grandchildren of miners long ago stand a chance of developing the disease during their lifetime.
The Link Between Smoking And Mesothelioma
Smoking has not been proven as a direct cause of Mesothelioma, unlike lung cancer which has been proven to be directly linked to smoking. Being a smoker, and being exposed to asbestos does increase the risk of contracting Mesothelioma, approximately 90 percent more likely than those who do not, even with being exposed to the same materials. A smoker’s lungs are already partially damaged, and would make it easier for the asbestos fibers to lodge themselves inside the already weakened lining of the lungs.
Pleural Mesothelioma Disease Symptoms
Some symptoms of Mesothelioma will vary from case to case, depending upon which type of the disease a patient may have. In fact, some cases may be misdiagnosed based solely on the general symptoms of Pleural mesothelioma, because of their similarity to other respiratory conditions like pneumonia, influenza, bronchitis, and even heart disease.
The most common pleural Mesothelioma disease symptoms are as follows:
1. Shortness of breath, or a marked difficulty in breathing
2. Chronic coughing
3. Chronic pain in the chest or abdomen
A buildup of fluid within the lungs, abdomen and chest
4. Weight loss and loss of appetite
5. Difficulty swallowing and a hoarse voice
6. Insomnia due to an inability to sleep
Peritoneal Mesothelioma Disease Symptoms
peritoneal mesothelioma is a form of the cancer that develops when asbestos fibers lodge in the lining of abdomen. The common symptoms that hallmark this form of Mesothelioma are as follows:
1. Acute to severe abdominal pain
2. A swelling of the abdomen, usually due to fluid building up within the lining
3. Difficulty breathing
4. A loss of appetite, weight loss
5. Obstruction of the bowels
6. Nausea and vomiting
7. Weakness and fever
Pericardial Mesothelioma Disease Symptoms
Pericardial Mesothelioma occurs when asbestos fibers find their way to the chest cavity, and become lodged in the pericardium, the lining that surrounds the heart muscles. Common symptoms of this condition include:
1. Chest pain, often ranging from uncomfortable to severe
2. A marked shortness of breath
3. Heart palpitations
4. Chronic coughing
5. Fatigue following any physical exertion
Diagnosis And Treatment
There are a number of screening tests that can be run to determine if a patient has Mesothelioma, or its close counterpart, asbestosis. X-rays will show fluid building up in a suspected area, and blood tests can be run to see if telltale peptides associated with this form of cancer are present. If positive, a biopsy would then be done using tissue samples from the suspected area, to check for malignant or benign tumors.
Once diagnosed, patients will often be referred to specialized treatment centers, where they will receive the best in current available treatments, as well as counseling, assistance and support therapies. Treatments used are often the same as other forms of cancer, like surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy.
Benign Mesothelioma Disease Symptoms
Cases of benign Mesothelioma are quite rare, representing only 10 percent of all reported cases over the years. The tumors are still fully formed, as they are in malignant Mesothelioma, but no cancerous cells or peptides are found within them. Even the benign form has distinct symptoms, and they are as follows:
1. Chest pain, due to the presence of a solitary tumor pressing upon the affected organ.
2. Shortness of breath
3. Chronic coughing
4. Clubbed fingers, where the nail bed on a finger becomes distorted, thanks to a low level of oxygen in the bloodstream.
Treatment following the presence of benign Mesothelioma disease symptoms will usually include surgery to remove any tumors, with continual follow up examinations to make sure no other tumors form. If they do, the same tests will be run again to make sure that its resurgence does not indicate a change from benign to malignant.