Symptoms, Risk Factors and Treatments for Mesothelioma
Not all cancers have an exact cause or explanation for development — but mesothelioma is one of the exceptions. Around 3,000 people are diagnosed with this cancer each year. Mesothelioma is cancer that forms in the lining of the lungs, abdomen or heart and is caused by inhaling dangerous asbestos fibers. Unfortunately, most people don’t know they have this cancer until it is advanced or widespread. That’s why it’s important to search online and learn about the risk factors to lower your chance of developing it.
Understanding the cause and effects or mesothelioma is something you can do to help prevent cancer from forming. Search online to know how mesothelioma could be linked to your workplace.
Here are the symptoms, risk factors and treatments for mesothelioma.
Symptoms and Signs of Mesothelioma
All cancers have different stages that determine how severe the disease has spread. With mesothelioma, most patients won’t experience any symptoms in its early stages. This could be anywhere from 20 to 60 years after someone has been exposed to asbestos.
- Aching or pain in the chest or lower back
- Cough or shortness of breath
- Weight loss
- Problems swallowing food
- Swelling of the face and arms
Symptoms can vary from person to person, and they depend on how far the cancer has progressed. Knowing the risk factors might help indicate whether it’s potentially related to mesothelioma.
Causes and Risk Factors
As serious as mesothelioma is, the cancer is mostly preventable. The main cause of it is asbestos exposure and is typically found in the workplace. When this element is inhaled, it can get into the lungs and leave fibers that travel through small airways and impact the pleura lining of lungs and chest wall. If the fibers injure the pleura, this can lead to mesothelioma.
- Workers that are the most at risk for asbestos exposure include:
- Factory workers
- Insulation manufacturers and installers
- Railroad and automotive workers
- Ship builders
- Gas mask manufacturers
- Construction workers
The majority of people diagnosed with mesothelioma are over the age of 65. It is more common in men than women because statistically, men are most likely to work in jobs with asbestos exposure. It’s also possible for friends and family to endure second-hand exposure to asbestos.
Types of Mesothelioma
There are four types of mesothelioma. The type a person is diagnosed with will depend on where the cancer is present. Each one has its own symptoms, prognosis and cell type that will determine how it is treated.
- Cancer is located in the lining of the lungs
- The most common and aggressive form of the disease
- Patients survive six to 12 months on average after diagnosis
- Cancer is located in the lining of the abdomen
- Second most common form with a more favorable life expectancy
- Symptoms include abdominal pain and swelling, fluid in the abdomen and weight loss
- Cancer is located in the lining of the heart
- Poor prognosis and fewer than 50 people are diagnosed with this type in the U.S. each year
- Symptoms include irregular heartbeat, chest pain and fluid buildup
- Cancer is located in the lining of the testicles
- More favorable prognosis and accounts for less than one percent of all cases
- Symptoms include mass on the testicle, pain and scrotal swelling
Diagnosing and Treating Mesothelioma
Mesothelioma is most likely to be diagnosed once a patient is experiencing symptoms. After describing your symptoms to the doctor, you’ll undergo a physical exam to check for unusual signs. Furthermore, a doctor will perform a biopsy and remove a small portion of tissue to be examined under a microscope.
Other tests that might be performed include an X-ray, CT scan, MRI and PET scan. These tests will also give doctors a better idea of how severe the cancer is. Afterwards, the cancer will be given a stage based on the extent of the disease.
There are four stages of mesothelioma:
- Stage One: The tumor is localized to the mesothelial lining and has not spread.
- Stage Two: The cancer has spread to nearby organs (ex. Lung or diaphragm).
- Stage Three: Cancer cells have spread to nearby tissues, lymph nodes, and/or organs.
- Stage Four: Cancer has spread to nearby and distant organs, tissues and lymph nodes.
Being diagnosed with a stage will help doctors determine the best course of action for treatment. The most common treatments for mesothelioma are surgery, chemotherapy and radiation.
Patients with mesothelioma that hasn’t spread too far may be able to get large portions of tissue removed through surgery. Chemotherapy and radiation are two treatments that target cancer cells in the body. Patients may also undergo other types of treatment such as immunotherapy, clinical trials or a combination of methods.
If the cancer is too difficult to cure or remove, patients will enter palliative treatment to help relieve pain or discomfort symptoms may cause. There are different types of palliative treatments related to the specific type of mesothelioma diagnosis.
See Your Doctor If You’re Experiencing Symptoms
Mesothelioma is a serious form of cancer with dire life expectancies. The good news is you can lower your risk of developing it by knowing the risk factors. Limiting your exposure to asbestos and ensuring your workplace is a safe place to be are important steps.
See your doctor to learn more about mesothelioma. If you’re experiencing symptoms, seek treatment right away to find out how you can get rid of it or limit your symptoms.