Mesothelioma The Slow and Sudden Killer- Signs to Watch Out For

mesothelioma symptoms
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Mesothelioma, also commonly known as “asbestos cancer,” (mesothelioma is almost always caused by asbestos exposure) is a rare, aggressive form of cancer that can take decades to develop. In other words, mesothelioma symptoms rarely appear in its early stages and when they do, they often mimic the symptoms of other more common conditions.

Because of this, mesothelioma is often detected in its advanced stages, making it harder to cure. The disease has no cure and treatment is often administered to alleviate the symptoms. After the initial diagnosis, patients usually have 9-12 months to live (stage 4). However, the survival rate may depend on a number of factors including the type of mesothelioma, stage, the age of the patient, sex, including others.

If you suspect you have been exposed to asbestos, it’s advisable to seek medical assistance as soon as possible. This is because early diagnosis may significantly increase your survival rate.

Mesothelioma Symptoms The Sudden Killer

Mesothelioma patients experience a variety of symptoms that vary by type and stage. In other words, a patient may exhibit mesothelioma symptoms depending on the type of mesothelioma or the stage he/she is in.

1. Pleural Mesothelioma Symptoms

Pleural mesothelioma or mesothelioma of the lungs is caused by prolonged exposure to the tiny fibers of asbestos, usually by inhaling. When these fibers are inhaled, they become trapped in the lining of the lungs, pleura. These fibers cause irritation and inflammation of the pleura, leading to a number of complications.

In its early stages (Stages 1 & 2) pleural mesothelioma does not show many symptoms, and those that are exhibited mimic the symptoms of other common conditions. This makes it hard to detect in its early stages. These symptoms include;

  • Chest pain
  • Shortness of breath (dyspnea).
  • Fever
  • Body aches
  • Pleural effusions (build-up of fluids).
  • Fatigue
  • Weight loss
  • Persistent coughing

These symptoms are more or less similar to those of conditions like common cold, asthma, pneumonia, influenza, and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD).

In its advanced stages (Stage 3 & 4), pleural mesothelioma exhibits more specific symptoms, including those from the earlier stages. These symptoms include;

  • Shortness of breath
  • Excessive fatigue
  • Pleural effusions
  • Persistent chest pain
  • Coughing up blood (hemoptysis).
  • Difficulty swallowing (dysphagia).
  • Anemia
  • Painful breathing
  • Excessive night sweats

During stages 3 & 4, the treatment administered to patients is usually to alleviate the pain and discomfort that come with these symptoms. Such treatments may include alternative treatments and palliative care.

2. Peritoneal Mesothelioma Symptoms

When asbestos fibers are ingested, the microscopic fibers get embedded in the lining of the abdomen (peritoneum). Over time, the lining becomes irritated and inflamed, leading to mutations in the surrounding mesothelial cells.

The latency period for peritoneal mesothelioma is usually 20-50 years, which makes its prognosis very poor.

In its early stages, peritoneal mesothelioma exhibits the following symptoms;

  • Pain in the abdomen
  • Swelling of the abdomen
  • Nausea, vomiting, poor appetite
  • Bowel and urinary problems
  • High temperature
  • Bowel and urinary complications

Symptoms of peritoneal mesothelioma in the advanced stages include;

  • Excessive fatigue
  • Sudden and unexplained weight loss
  • Peritoneal effusions (buildup of fluids in the abdomen).
  • Bowel obstruction
  • Hernias
  • Abdominal distention

Treatment options like chemotherapy are often administered in the advanced stages to shrink and slow down the growth of tumors. Through chemotherapy, some patients have extended their lifespan to 5 years.

3. Pericardial Mesothelioma Symptoms

Pericardial mesothelioma is one of the rarest types of mesothelioma cancer, accounting for 1 percent of all mesothelioma cases. This cancer develops when the tiny fibers of asbestos find their way to the pericardium lining of the heart. Because it’s often diagnosed in the advanced stages, it has a very poor prognosis.

Pericardial mesothelioma may exhibit these symptoms both at its earlier stages and advanced stages:

  • Difficulty breathing, even when at rest (dyspnea).
  • Heart murmurs
  • Shortness of breath when lying flat.
  • Excessive fatigue
  • Excessive night sweats
  • Heart palpitations or irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia).
  • Fever
  • Chest pain
  • Cough

Early diagnosis of pericardial mesothelioma allows for a more effective course of treatment. So if you notice some of these symptoms, be sure to seek medical assistance.

What To Do After Being Diagnosed With Mesothelioma?

Most cases of mesothelioma are often diagnosed at an advanced stage, making it a little bit difficult to treat. The diagnostic process usually begins with a physical examination to confirm the symptoms. The doctor then uses imaging tests such as CT Scans or MRI which help locate the location of the tumor and how far it has spread.

If you’ve been diagnosed with mesothelioma, there are various steps you should take:

  • Learn more about mesothelioma and more so about the type you’ve been diagnosed with.
  • Get medical assistance- the doctor will recommend a suitable course of treatment for you.
  • Participate in clinical trials and other new treatments.
  • Seek valuable resources for assistance.
  • Join a support network.

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