Early Signs of Mesothelioma
About half of the patients diagnosed with mesothelioma have no symptoms. Many patients who do experience symptoms ignore them and do not seek treatment because they attribute the signs to other ailments, such as colds or flu.
In fact, the early symptoms of mesothelioma are indeed flu-like. They include:
- Shortness of breath
- Pain in the chest or in the lower back
- Abdominal pain, weight loss, and nausea and vomiting (symptoms of peritoneal mesothelioma)
If the cancer has spread beyond the mesothelium to other parts of the body, symptoms may include pain, trouble swallowing, or swelling of the neck or face.
Most cases of mesothelioma affect the lungs and are diagnosed in Caucasian males between the ages of 50 and 70 who worked in industries known to have used asbestos from the 1940s until the late 1970s. The following groups were likely to be exposed to asbestos in the workplace prior to 1980:
- Shipyard workers
- Employees of asbestos mines and mills
- Employees of companies producing asbestos products, such as insulation
- Workers in the heating and construction industries
If you were employed in one of these categories and you experience the early symptoms of mesothelioma listed above, you should seek the advice of a physician immediately. If you suspect that you have been exposed to asbestos, you may want to be examined by a doctor even if you do not have symptoms. You may be able to file a lawsuit against the companies responsible for your asbestos exposure. You should also contact a mesothelioma lawyer to see if you are eligible for compensation.
Your doctor will begin with a thorough physical exam and a discussion of your medical history, including any known exposure to asbestos. If your doctor suspects that you have mesothelioma, he or she will initially perform the following tests:
- X-rays of the chest or abdomen
- CT (computed tomography) scans
- MRI (magnetic resonance imaging)
These tests will be done on the lung, chest or abdomen, depending on the symptoms you are experiencing. Performing these initial screenings will determine if more invasive procedures are required to treat your condition.
The major risk factor for mesothelioma is exposure to asbestos. In cases of mesothelioma, 70 to 80 percent of people diagnosed had an identifiable exposure to asbestos. Exposure to certain types of radiation as well as to a chemical related to asbestos known as zeolite has also been related to incidences of mesothelioma.
Smoking does not appear to increase the risk of mesothelioma. However, the combination of smoking and asbestos exposure significantly increases a person’s risk of developing cancer of the air passageways in the lung.
When to Worry
If you have a history of asbestos exposure and are experiencing the early symptoms of mesothelioma, it is important that you consult a physician for diagnosis and treatment. If you have a history of asbestos exposure and no symptoms, it may still be advisable to discuss your medical history with your doctor. As a general rule, you should always discuss any health concerns that you may have with a doctor, preferably one who is familiar with your medical history.
What to Do Next
If you are diagnosed with mesothelioma, first know that you are not alone. There are 2,000 to 3,000 new cases of mesothelioma diagnosed every year. Second, explore this website and learn as much as you can about the disease, its treatment and prognosis. Be sure to talk to your doctor about any questions you may have about the cancer, now and as your treatment progresses. The more knowledge you have, the more empowered you will feel. Knowledge will also help you take better care of yourself and improve your chances of beating this disease.