Regardless of where it originates, mesothelioma can spread to other parts of the body. In fact, the signs of mesothelioma can go undetected for decades, and by the time it is diagnosed, it often has already spread, or metastasized.
Mesothelioma is a cancer that develops in the layer of tissue that covers most of our internal organs, known as the mesothelium. Mesothelioma most commonly begins in the lungs (pleural mesothelioma), but it also can develop in the abdomen (peritoneal mesothelioma). Rarely, mesothelioma will develop in the tissue around the heart or testicles.
Pleural mesothelium can spread to the:
- Space in the chest between the lungs
- Both lungs
- Lymph nodes in the chest
- Adrenal glands
- Distant organs
Peritoneal mesothelioma spreads to the:
- Space between the lungs and chest
- Tissue lining the small intestines and colon
- Other organs in the abdomen
Signs and Symptoms of Mesothelioma
The signs and symptoms of mesothelioma will vary depending on if your cancer is in the lungs or abdomen. Signs of pleural mesothelioma include pain in the chest, breathing difficulties, unexplainably losing weight, painful coughing, and the presence of lumps in the chest area, according to the Mayo Clinic.
As pleural mesothelioma spreads, it can cause difficulty swallowing and breathing, a buildup of fluid in the chest, and pain caused by pressure on the nerves and spinal cord.
Signs and symptoms of peritoneal mesothelioma include pain and swelling in the abdomen, weight loss, and nausea. If you believe you may have mesothelioma, you should consult a doctor to learn more about your condition.
How Mesothelioma Is Diagnosed and Treated
According to the American Cancer Society, if your doctor thinks you may have mesothelioma, there are a variety of tests they might order to confirm the diagnosis, beginning with a chest x-ray. You may also be asked to have a CT scan, PET scan, or MRI, all of which are various types of medical imaging that can give your doctor a picture of where your cancer is located and how much it has spread.
You may be asked to have a biopsy, which is a procedure where the doctor takes a tissue or fluid sample for testing. Blood tests cannot diagnose mesothelioma, but your doctor may ask for a sample to get a better idea of your overall health.
Your doctor will determine what “stage” your cancer is in, stage 1, 2, 3, or 4, depending on how much the mesothelioma has spread to other parts of the body. Surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy all are options for fighting mesothelioma. Your doctor may also prescribe drug therapies, suggest clinical trials, or use alternative treatments to help manage your symptoms.
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Causes of Mesothelioma
As with all cancer, certain risk factors can increase your chances of developing mesothelioma. Overwhelmingly, the primary risk factor for mesothelioma is contact with asbestos.
Asbestos is a naturally occurring group of fibrous minerals. Exposure occurs when the fibers are inhaled or ingested. Though its use in the United States has greatly decreased since 1989, it was commonly used in a variety of building materials and automotive parts, including insulation, roofing shingles, and brake linings.
The American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) states that 70% to 80% of people diagnosed with mesothelioma have been exposed to asbestos. Other risk factors may also increase the likelihood of developing mesothelioma, including smoking, radiation exposure, and, in rare cases, an inherited gene mutation.
How People Are Exposed to Asbestos
The workplace is the most common source of asbestos exposure. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates 125 million people worldwide come into contact with asbestos while on the job. Occupations with a risk of asbestos exposure include:
- Asbestos miners
- Demolition workers
- Shipyard workers
- Brake mechanics
People who remodel old buildings and homes may come into contact with asbestos when disturbing old building materials. If you have an old home that needs work, contact an expert and test for asbestos before beginning demolition.
If you work around asbestos, be sure to wear the proper protective gear. You also should shower and change clothing before leaving the workplace to reduce the spread of asbestos fibers to your home and loved ones.
There may also be a link between asbestos exposure and the regular use of products containing talc. Talc also is a naturally occurring mineral and is often found near asbestos mines, which can cause cross-contamination. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a warning to consumers about this link and is conducting further testing.
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How A Lawyer Can Help
If you have mesothelioma, you may be entitled to compensation for your illness. A lawyer can help you with your case and determine if you are eligible to seek awards for medical costs, lost wages, and more.
For more information, contact Pintas & Mullins Law Firm risk-free at (800) 307-3113.