Mesothelioma is a cancer that begins in the tissue lining the majority of our organs, known as the mesothelium. Symptoms of mesothelioma can vary depending on where the cancer originates, and signs of the disease can be mild, as well as similar to many other common illnesses. Because of this, people can go years, even decades, before discovering they have mesothelioma.
How early can mesothelioma be detected? Cancer diagnoses are given in stages. Stage 1 cancer is the earliest phase, with stage 4 being the most severe. The earlier cancer is detected, the better the prognosis. You may detect mesothelioma in the early stages if you understand the risk factors and knowing the signs and symptoms.
What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Mesothelioma?
The signs and symptoms of mesothelioma will vary depending on where the cancer begins to develop in the body. Pleural mesothelioma affects the tissue around the lungs, and is, by far, the most common form of mesothelioma. Peritoneal mesothelioma affects the tissue in the abdomen. There also are forms of mesothelioma that begin in the heart and testicles, though these are extremely rare.
According to Mayo Clinic, symptoms of pleural mesothelioma include coughing, shortness of breath, chest pain, unexplained weight loss, and unusual lumps of tissue in the skin under the chest. As the cancer spreads, it could cause difficulty breathing and/or swallowing, pain caused by pressure on the nerves and spinal cord, and a buildup of fluid in the chest. Signs and symptoms of peritoneal mesothelioma include abdominal pain and swelling, nausea, and unexplained weight loss.
Many of the symptoms of mesothelioma could be signs of a variety of other illnesses. This is one of the reasons the disease sometimes goes undetected in the early stages. If you have persisting signs or symptoms, you should see a doctor, especially if you have been exposed to asbestos.
What Causes Mesothelioma?
Overwhelmingly, exposure to asbestos is the single biggest risk factor for developing mesothelioma. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), asbestos is a leading cause for mesothelioma.
Asbestos is a naturally-occurring mineral whose strong, flexible, fire-proof fibers made it a popular building material, especially from the 1930s to 1960s. Manufacturers used asbestos in insulation, roofing shingles, floor tiles, cement, and more. Its use in the United States stopped after 1989 once it became clear asbestos is carcinogenic; however, it could take decades from the time of exposure to the time mesothelioma develops.
Exposure occurs when asbestos fibers are inhaled or ingested. The most common source of exposure is in the workplace. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates 125 million people worldwide still work with asbestos. Plumbers, pipefitters, brake mechanics, asbestos miners, shipyard workers, insulators, and people who demolish and remodel old buildings all are at risk of workplace exposure.
Another source of asbestos exposure may be through talcum powder, a common ingredient in many cosmetics products. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently warned consumers about a link between asbestos, talc, and cancer, and advised further testing.
Other risk factors for developing mesothelioma include smoking and exposure to radiation therapy. It also has been found that 1 percent of patients diagnosed with mesothelioma have an inherited genetic mutation that increases the likelihood of developing the disease.
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How Is Mesothelioma Diagnosed and Treated?
According to MedlinePlus, U.S. National Library of Medicine, most mesotheliomas are found when patients go to a doctor because of chest pain and shortness of breath. However, how early mesothelioma can be detected will, in part, depend on your risk factors. If you know you have been exposed to asbestos, you can work with your doctor to catch the disease in its earliest stages.
If you have a known history of asbestos exposure, some doctors will recommend regular image testing to screen for signs of mesothelioma. This may include chest x-rays, CT scans, PET scans, or MRIs. Your doctor can use these images to look for changes in your lungs that may signal the development of mesothelioma or lung cancer.
Doctors may also use blood tests to monitor for the presence of certain substances that people with mesothelioma have been found to have in their blood, according to the ACS. If your doctor sees evidence of mesothelioma development, she may request a biopsy of tissue or fluid to test for cancer.
If you have mesothelioma, the disease cannot be cured, but it can be treated. Measures can be taken to help relieve the symptoms and slow the spread, or metastasis, of the cancer through the body. Your doctor may recommend surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, drug therapies, or a combination of methods.
How Can Pintas & Mullins Law Firm Help?
If you have mesothelioma, it could be because of asbestos exposure. You may be entitled to compensation for your illness. A lawyer can help you learn more about your case. Contact Pintas & Mullins Law Firm at (800) 307-3113 for a risk-free consultation.
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