Living with Mesothelioma: Symptoms, Diagnosis and Treatment

A diagnosis of mesothelioma is an irrevocably life-changing event – one that alters not only your day-to-day experiences but the entire scope of your future as well. Receiving such news frequently produces an initial state of shock that some patients describe as an out-of-body experience or the feeling of being frozen. This very common reaction is identified as the initial stage of the grieving process. It is a normal and even healthy response to emotional trauma and can serve a psychologically protective role, giving your brain and body time to absorb and process a difficult reality.

A big part of processing this new reality is learning how to adapt and move forward. For victims of mesothelioma, the adjustment timeframe allotted is generally quite limited; but that doesn’t mean that you can’t make the most of it. Many mesothelioma victims find that knowledge is one of the most empowering tools available to them. By learning what to expect and how to best manage your disease, you can begin to move forward in living with mesothelioma.

This five-part series is dedicated to educating victims of mesothelioma about their disease and its relationship to asbestos, as well as their legal rights and various options for fair compensation. Additional Information and counsel is available at no cost by contacting the national trial attorneys of Shrader Law and Associates, LLP.


Recognizing Mesothelioma Symptoms

Mesothelioma symptoms are notoriously difficult to identify. The disease develops slowly – usually of 30 to 50 years, sometimes even more – and early symptomology tends to mimic common conditions like the cold and flu virus or seasonal allergies. Anyone with a known history of past asbestos exposure is advised to be on the lookout for any of the following:

  • Persistent coughing or wheezing
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain or pressure
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Abdominal pain and/or swelling
  • Nausea with or without vomiting

Receiving a Diagnosis

Mesothelioma is frequently misdiagnosed, and is almost always caught in its late stages when treatment options are limited and terminality is virtually inevitable. If you suspect that you are in the high-risk group for the disease (i.e. have received frequent and/or heavy exposure to asbestos) and begin experiencing any of the mesothelioma symptoms listed above, it is advisable to see a cancer specialist immediately. Even if you consult initially with your regular physician, it is vital to inform him or her of the full details regarding any past exposure so that you can get an accurate diagnosis.

It is common for patients with suspected mesothelioma to undergo a chest x-ray and lung function test, followed by (if necessitated) an MRI or other advanced imaging procedure. A conclusive diagnosis however, requires either a needle or surgical biopsy.

Options for Treatment

Once diagnosed, patients begin treatment for mesothelioma almost immediately – which means decisions about which form(s) of treatment to use must be made quickly. The three modalities approved for usage in conventional medicine are: chemotherapy, radiation therapy and surgery. Recent research indicated that a multimodal approach is generally most effective, particularly one that combines surgery to remove the malignancy, followed by one or more rounds of chemo.

For patients in the most advanced stage of the disease, palliative treatment options are available to help manage mesothelioma symptoms – including respiratory therapy, pain medication and medical procedures to drain excess fluid from the cancer site.

A detailed guide describing alternative malignant mesothelioma treatment options will be featured later in this series.