Mesothelioma is a rare and dangerous cancer that grows in the lining of the lungs. It’s caused by inhaling or otherwise taking in toxic asbestos fibers, which become lodged in the lungs and lead to chronic inflammation and eventually cancer.
The frightening thing about asbestos is that the symptoms of mesothelioma and other asbestos-related illnesses often don’t appear until decades after exposure. Symptoms can vary, but they usually involved difficulty breathing, chest pain, coughing or wheezing. Symptoms also may present in other parts of the body aside, such as the abdomen or the bowels.
Unfortunately, the condition is not very easy to diagnose. The symptoms are vague and could easily be attributed to another condition, and many people don’t visit the doctor as early as they should. The disease can also remain hidden. If the patient is very young or not presenting lung masses, the doctor might mistake it for something else.
Since the cancer can spread so rapidly, these factors make mesothelioma incredibly dangerous. Once the condition is suspected, a thoracentesis procedure is performed to drain the lung and test for cancer, but this test sometimes yields a false negative. Thorough testing involves a biopsy and imagining techniques like CT scans. If you haven’t been offered these tests, you might want to seek a second opinion to ensure your diagnosis is correct.
Both are dangerous cancers, but lung cancer is quite different from mesothelioma. Lung cancer affects the lung, and mesothelioma affects the tissue that lines the lungs. This tissue lines other organs in the body as well, including the heart. It’s a common misconception that mesothelioma only affects the lungs.
Mesothelioma is also different in that it’s one of the only cancers with a specific known cause. While we know that cigarette smoking and other factors might contribute to a variety of cancers, mesothelioma is only known to be caused by asbestos exposure.
It’s important to realize that every case is unique, and it’s impossible to guarantee that any form of cancer can be cured. Likewise, it’s always possible for remission to occur. There have been many mesothelioma patients who have survived far beyond their prognosis. If you’re suffering with this condition, remain positive and keep hopeful.
In many cases, doctors can remove some or all of the malignant tumor and treat the remaining parts with radiation and chemotherapy. Since mesothelioma is an aggressive form of cancer, it usually returns. For this reason, quality of life and pain management are important aspects of treating malignant mesothelioma.
If you believe you have been exposed, your best bet is to visit your doctor. You’ll be given a thorough examination and told what symptoms to watch out for as you age. Typically, it takes 40 years from point of exposure for onset of cancer to begin, but there are warning signs along the way. If you’ve worked with or near asbestos, cohabitated with an asbestos worker, or lived in a building that has been built with asbestos products, you’re potentially at risk.
There are a few methods used to determine whether you’re experiencing symptoms of mesothelioma, but there is only one method than can confirm it. Physical examinations, X-rays and CT Scans can be implemented if your doctor suspects you’ve contracted mesothelioma, but this will typically provide them with enough information to pursue alternate methods of diagnosis. Only a biopsy and examination of lung tissue can truly confirm cases of malignant mesothelioma.
Cancer research is ongoing, and innovative new treatments are being discovered all the time. For this reason alone, mesothelioma patients should not give up. Researchers are experimenting with ways of preventing the cancer from forming after asbestos exposure has already occurred. New treatments, medications and procedures are being explored.
There are also clinical trials available for mesothelioma patients. Entry qualifications will vary greatly, so you will need to research to find a trial that matches with your situation. Those who have been given a poor prognosis and have little to lose might be interested in taking a chance on a trial medication or procedure. It’s completely a personal choice.
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