Mesothelioma is a type of cancer that typically is not detected early for several reasons. Because of its rarity and how its symptoms mirror those of other more common illnesses, the American Cancer Society reports that doctors and other healthcare providers are less likely to recommend screening tests for mesothelioma unless the person is at a higher risk of developing the disease.
Some doctors recommend imaging tests for people who are known to be exposed to asbestos. They can check for tumors or irregularities in the lungs.
There are also certain substances in the blood of people with a history of asbestos exposure. However, researchers are just in the beginning stages of studying how a blood test might eventually be able to detect mesotheliomas early.
How Mesothelioma Is Diagnosed
Most cases of mesothelioma are only detected when patients exhibit new or persistent symptoms. According to the Mayo Clinic, these symptoms typically include:
- Chest pain.
- Shortness of breath (feeling as though you cannot catch your breath).
- Coughing that is painful.
- Lumps that you can feel underneath the skin on your chest.
- Losing weight without trying.
One of the most important factors in detecting mesothelioma is a person’s work history. According to the American Cancer Society, nearly eight out of 10 people diagnosed with mesothelioma worked in jobs that regularly exposed them to asbestos.
Medical Tests to Detect Mesothelioma
Your doctor may order certain tests to determine if you could have mesothelioma, based upon a physical exam, your symptoms, and your history of asbestos exposure.
These diagnostic tests may include:
- X-rays or computerized tomography (CT) scan of your chest or abdomen to check for irregularities.
- If imaging tests show a tumor or other abnormality, you will probably have a biopsy to confirm if you have mesothelioma or another type of cancer.
- Your doctor may request magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or positron emission tomography (PET) to learn if the disease has spread beyond the lungs and into nearby tissue or organs.
Mesothelioma cancer, like other types of cancers, are rated by stages from one to four, and early detection can make a difference at what stage you begin treatment. The lower the stage number, the more likely that the cancer is contained or localized. The higher the stage number, the more likely that the cancer has spread. This affects what type of treatment options are available to you.
What Treatment Is Available for Mesothelioma
The primary options for aggressive, cancer-fighting treatment are chemotherapy, radiation therapy, immunotherapy, and surgery.
Mesothelioma has a poor survival rate, on average. While some patients with the illness live longer, the American Cancer Society reports that about 20 percent of people diagnosed with stage 1 mesothelioma live for five years after their initial diagnosis.
Because of this grim reality, some people with mesothelioma choose to focus solely on palliative or supportive care. Palliative care is designed to improve the quality of life for people with life-threatening diseases. While aggressive treatment such as chemotherapy may add a few months to a patient’s life, it often has harsh side effects.
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Finding Care and Support for Mesothelioma Patients and Loved Ones
It is devastating to receive a mesothelioma diagnosis.
The Mayo Clinic recommends the following actions for patients, caregivers, and family members:
- Learn as much as you can about the disease so that you can make informed decisions.
- Lean on others for strength in a mesothelioma cancer support group.
- Ask for help from loved ones and/or professional caregivers.
- Live for each day but plan for the future by getting your legal, medical, and financial affairs in order.
You do not want to wait until it is too late to speak for yourself. That is why you should have your wishes made clear, in writing, while you are able.
Risk Factors for Mesothelioma
Asbestos is the leading contributor to mesothelioma, according to both the Mayo Clinic and the American Cancer Society. Most people who are diagnosed with mesothelioma came into contact with asbestos through their job.
The jobs with the highest risk of asbestos exposure include:
- HVAC workers
- Remodeling workers
- Demolition workers
- Construction workers
- Military personnel
Some homeowners and office workers who live or work in older buildings may be at risk for asbestos exposure. Asbestos was widely used in construction until the 1970s, before it was recognized as a carcinogen.
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Free Case Evaluation for Mesothelioma Claims
You could be entitled to compensation if you were diagnosed with mesothelioma. A personal injury lawyer may be able to help you recover damages for medical treatment, lifecare expenses, pain and suffering, and other losses.
You are invited to call Pintas & Mullins Law Firm for a free case evaluation with our team. You deserve to know your legal rights to help you make an informed decision about pursuing compensation.
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