In their earliest stages, mesothelioma symptoms may not seem particularly scary or even abnormal. Because of this, it is especially important for individuals who have been exposed to asbestos in the past to be aware of and on alert for the early warning signs.
Mesothelioma is a rare but often deadly form of cancer that is typically caused by exposure to asbestos, a known carcinogen. Asbestos was used in construction materials, as well as many other consumer products, until it was banned by the Environmental Protection Agency in 1989. It can take several decades for the disease to develop, so people who experienced exposure 50 or more years ago remain at heightened risk today.
Survival rates for patients with mesothelioma cancer decline by date of detection. Those with the most promising prognoses are diagnosed early and able to receive treatment quickly. Mesothelioma is generally fatal within eight months of diagnosis; early detection is key for recovery.
Screening methods used to investigate possible cases include a physical exam, chest X-ray and lung function tests. If results from any of those screeners increase rather than eliminate suspicion of the disease, then imaging techniques—either a CT scan or MRI—are administered. Should these less invasive measures fail to provide reassuring results, a biopsy is almost always required to confirm the presence of malignant mesothelioma.
Mesothelioma is notoriously difficult to diagnose, a problem largely attributed to the ambiguity of mesothelioma symptoms, which often mimic common ailments and conditions. For that reason, experts recommend that anyone with known asbestos exposure be mindful about their health and immediately seek medical treatment if they begin to regularly exhibit any of the known warning signs.
Common and easily overlooked mesothelioma symptoms include:
2. Wheezing or a consistent hoarse voice
3. Shortness of breath
4. Persistent coughing
5. Difficulty swallowing
7. Swelling of the face
A variety of common ailments that are not life-threatening—nor even necessarily bothersome—may cause many of the same symptoms as mesothelioma, including head colds, allergies, asthma or a change in diet.
It is important to know that regular contact with asbestos is the number one cause of malignant mesothelioma. Individuals who have knowingly had exposure—particularly regular exposure—are advised not to take possible symptoms lightly and should see a doctor immediately once any are noticed.
Late-stage mesothelioma symptoms are more telling, but for many people, do not appear until the disease is in an advanced form. These may include weight loss, jaundiced skin or eyes, blood clots and lumps in the chest or abdomen. Advanced cases of mesothelioma are very difficult to treat and are most often fatal.
It is also important that individuals who have been exposed to asbestos inform their physician of this, as well as any additional risk factors, such as cigarette smoking. In order for a doctor to sufficiently evaluate the presence of potential mesothelioma symptoms, it is vital that the patient’s history of exposure be known.