One of the most aggressive cancers, mesothelioma, is a rare disease typically diagnosed when the case aggravates. Typically, patients diagnosed with this cancer range from 69 years and above. Though it is predominantly present in men due to exposure to asbestos on the job, women are no exception to this disease. Long-term inhalation of asbestos fibers, a toxic mineral found in particular construction and textile materials, can trigger the development of this malignant tumor.
Did you know? Approximately 3,000 cases are diagnosed annually in the United States. At the same time, patients have a life expectancy of anywhere between a year to two years, depending on early detection.
We can further classify this disease into four groups based on the location of the cancer cells: pericardial mesothelioma, peritoneal mesothelioma, pleural mesothelioma, and testicular mesothelioma.
- The pericardial mesothelioma is the rarest of all four types and spreads in the heart’s lining.
- The peritonealoccurs in 20% of all cases and affects the abdominal cavity lining.
- Pleural mesothelioma forms in the lining of the lungs and are by far the most aggressive tumor and the most common out of all four.
- Testicular mesothelioma spreads in the male testicles, causing swelling and discomfort.
Though this particular malignant tumor can be fatal, ongoing clinical trials are making significant progress in searching for new ways to cure mesothelioma. As in all cancer cases, the earlier it is detected, the higher the chances of survival; the same applies to mesothelioma. Here are the tell-tale signs and symptoms of this condition that, if detected early, can be the difference between survival and suffering.
What Are the Symptoms of Mesothelioma?
Exposure to asbestos for anyone between 20 to 50 years of age can trigger symptoms. However, they do not occur until the tumor has spread to various organs within the body. Some early signs to keep a lookout can range from unintentional weight loss, chest discomfort, and unexplained or excess fatigue. Since each mesothelioma case is different and spreads in other organs, the symptoms can also vary slightly. To better understand this lethal disease, continue reading to take a closer look at the signs of each type of mesothelioma.
How is Mesothelioma Diagnosed?
Since the disease does not showcase severe symptoms during stage 1 or 2, it is challenging to detect early signs. However, you can consult your doctor and inform them if you may have asbestos exposure. So they can have routine tests done to ensure you are healthy. If needed, your healthcare provider will recommend getting a biopsy done. Below are common symptoms patients often complain about:
Symptoms during the Early Stage of Mesothelioma
Patients can tell something is wrong when they face difficulty breathing, accompanied by wheezing, dry cough, headache, shortness of breath, and pain in the abdomen or chest. While other diseases such as asthma or COVID also have similar symptoms, it is best to get checked by a healthcare provider with experience in mesothelioma.
Symptoms during the Later Stage of Mesothelioma
By stage 3 or 4, the tumor spreads aggressively, and patients can physically feel it against their body. During these stages, symptoms can worsen drastically. These include visible weight loss, anemia, fatigue, loss of appetite, and difficulty swallowing. Symptoms also include trouble passing stool due to bowel impediment, respiratory issues, and aggravated pain. Moreover, patients complain of chest pains and pleural effusion due to tumor increasing in size and restricting lungs from functioning at their optimal.
Signs of Different Types of Tumor
There are several similarities among all four types of mesothelioma. However, a few distinctive signs can help differentiate one from another.
- Patients suffering from testicular mesothelioma complain about swollen testesor lumps in the scrotum.
- Peritoneal mesothelioma causes constipation, nausea, vomiting, and unintentional weight loss. Patients may also experience night sweats and fever, abdominal swelling, loss of appetite, and more than usual abdominal fluid retention.
- Some patients who suffer from pleural mesothelioma experience fever, muscle weakness, hoarseness, chest pain, difficulty breathing, weight loss, fatigue, wheezing, dry cough, and shortness of breath. Some other signs include coughing up blood, chronic coughing, lumps under the chest, and fluid buildup.
- Acute coughing, paradoxical pulse, and dyspnea are other symptoms of the malignant tumor.
Treatment for Mesothelioma
If you can relate to any of the signs mentioned above and have prior asbestos exposure, make an appointment at the earliest with a mesothelioma specialist. It is best to do in-depth research and consult a specialist who can recommend suitable treatments. Treatments range from radiation therapy, chemotherapy, palliative therapy, or surgery for pain and symptom management, depending on the stage of cancer. Alongside these, you may also try alternative treatments, such as massage, acupuncture, and meditation to help ease discomfort, curb anxiety, stress, and depression thatpatients often experience.
Prevention is better than cure. If you are suffering from tell-tale signs and symptoms, take a doctor’s appointment at the earliest, get yourself tested and treated, if needed. Detecting malignant tumors at an early stage increases your chances of combatting this ailment, reducing discomfort and promoting your survival.