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Could You Or A Loved One Have Mesothelioma?

Here Are The Signs

Mesothelioma is a rare, deadly cancer that over 20 million Americans are at risk of developing. It’s caused by breathing in or ingesting asbestos, a naturally occurring mineral found in a variety of items. However, it can take a long time after being exposed for you to notice any health complications.

Unfortunately, the early signs and symptoms of mesothelioma often mimic those of more common ailments. There are four different types of mesothelioma, all of which affect the body differently. In honor of Mesothelioma Awareness Day, here are a few things you should be on the lookout for if you’re concerned that you or a loved one may have mesothelioma.

Have you been exposed to asbestos in the past?

Asbestos is the only known cause of mesothelioma. When microscopic asbestos fibers lodge into the lining of organs, they can cause damage and cell mutation, leading to the development of asbestos-related cancers. However, it could take anywhere from 10-50 years after being exposed for health complications to develop. Because of this, people diagnosed with mesothelioma are often over the age of sixty-five.

Asbestos companies knew for years that asbestos was a carcinogen, yet they continued to use it in many products and building materials well into the 1980s. Even though asbestos is heavily regulated in the United States, the remnants of asbestos are still prevalent in many homes, buildings, and appliances.

Some people are more likely to have been exposed to asbestos than others. Veterans, construction workers, firefighters, and other occupations are at a higher risk of asbestos exposure. These employees also have a high chance of bringing asbestos home with them— contaminating their clothes, cars, and houses with asbestos and increasing their family’s chances of developing mesothelioma.

If your likelihood of being exposed to asbestos is low, but you’re experiencing symptoms, they are likely linked to a different condition. However, if you believe you have been exposed to a high level of asbestos— especially over a long period of time—then you should communicate this to your doctor. They may not know immediately what’s wrong, so sharing this with them can lead to a quicker diagnosis and recovery time.

Signs of Pleural Mesothelioma

MesotheliomaThe most common type of mesothelioma is pleural mesothelioma. It affects the lining of the lungs and is usually the type that people are referring to when talking about mesothelioma.

Symptoms include:

  • Chest pain
  • Coughing up blood
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Dry cough
  • Fatigue
  • Fever
  • Shortness of breath
  • Weight loss

As the disease progresses the symptoms can worsen over time. These symptoms can also be linked to different other asbestos-occurring issues, such as pleural plaques and asbestosis. These ailments can cause severe damage to the lungs and may lead to the development of mesothelioma.

Pleural mesothelioma can often be mistaken for pneumonia, bronchitis, the flu, or a different form of lung cancer.

Signs of Peritoneal Mesothelioma

Peritoneal mesothelioma develops in the lining of the abdomen. This occurs when asbestos fibers are ingested. Upwards of 20 percent of all mesothelioma diagnoses are peritoneal mesothelioma. This form has a higher life expectancy than some of the other types.

Symptoms include:

  • Abdominal swelling
  • Abdominal pain
  • Loss of appetite (anorexia)
  • Weight loss
  • Intestinal obstruction
  • Blood clotting

Because there are multiple organs in the abdomen, symptoms can vary greatly between patients. It can often be confused with Crohn’s disease and irritable bowel syndrome.

Signs of Pericardial Mesothelioma

Pericardial mesothelioma attacks the linings of the heart. It’s one of the rarer forms of mesothelioma, and only makes up one percent of diagnosed cases. This form of mesothelioma often has severe symptoms.

Symptoms include:

  • Dry cough
  • Chest pain
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Shortness of breath
  • Right shoulder pain
  • Swelling of legs and feet
  • Fluid buildup around the lining of the heart

The prognosis of pericardial mesothelioma is poor, with most patients only living for six months after receiving a diagnosis. Because it’s so rare, it can take a long time to receive a diagnosis. About 10-25 percent of patients are diagnosed with pericardial mesothelioma after death.

Testicular Mesothelioma

The last form of mesothelioma makes up about 100 diagnosed cases to date. It develops in the lining of the testicles and has a higher life expectancy than the other types of mesothelioma.

Symptoms include:

  • A lump on the testicles
  • Pain in the testes
  • Scrotal swelling caused by fluid buildup

This type of mesothelioma has a high recurrence rate. The rarity of this condition usually means that the symptoms are attributed to other testicular cancers. It’s also possible that the mesothelioma tumors in the testicles may be linked to peritoneal mesothelioma that has spread throughout the body.

Receiving a Mesothelioma Diagnosis

There are a few different treatment options that are available once you or a loved one has been diagnosed with mesothelioma. Surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, or a mixture of the three can greatly improve your quality of life. Unfortunately, the life expectancy after most diagnoses is 31 months at best.

This is why early detection is important. Early treatment makes life-saving treatments easier and more accessible to patients. So spend this Mesothelioma Awareness Day learning more about this life-altering disease and sharing the information with your family members and loved ones.

Christine Crosby

About the author

Christine is the co-founder and editorial director for GRAND Magazine. She is the grandmother of five and great-grandmom (aka Grandmere) to one. She makes her home in St. Petersburg, Florida.

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