Mesothelioma is a type of cancer commonly associated with asbestos exposure. Because symptoms are discrete and tend to build up over time, it’s usually too late by the time a clear diagnosis is made. This means that although there are existing treatments for this condition, it may be too little, too late for others.
What Causes Mesothelioma
One of the most common questions asked upon being diagnosed with an illness is, “How did I get it?” In the case of mesothelioma, exposure to asbestos is a very strong, possible cause. In fact, according to the American Cancer Society, as much as 80% of mesothelioma cases can be attributed to asbestos exposure.
A silent killer, mesothelioma quietly builds up over the years, sometimes as much as 20 to 60 years–even more–from the time of exposure to asbestos. This is why diagnosis usually comes too late. By the time the symptoms fully manifest, the cancer has already gotten to a severe stage.
Mesothelioma is commonly believed to manifest in the lungs, but actually, cancer can present itself in other locations as well. Pleural mesothelioma, for example, develops in the tissue surrounding the lungs.
Symptoms in this area will therefore include painful coughing, chest pain, unexplained weight loss, abnormal or irregular tissue mass, as well as shortness of breath. If it occurs in the abdomen, meanwhile, symptoms may include abdominal pain and swelling, unexplained weight loss, and nausea.
The tricky part about these symptoms is that they can easily be mistaken as symptoms for an entirely different condition. The first step to confirming what condition it is, therefore, is to conduct a biopsy.
What Happens After Diagnosis
Once the biopsy confirms that it is, in fact, mesothelioma, the next step is to determine how far-reaching the cancer has spread throughout the body. CT scans of the affected areas, MRI, and positron emission tomography (PET) are the typical tests conducted in relation to this condition.
A treatment plan will then be determined depending on the results of these tests. Unfortunately, mesothelioma is one of the more aggressive types of cancer, making treatment difficult, if not impossible, at an advanced stage.
Surgery is an available option, but it only works best when the cancer is detected at its earliest stage. Realistically, however, surgery may only reduce or mitigate the impacts of cancer in the body.
If you think you have been exposed to asbestos, or if you are feeling symptoms indicative of the same, consult with your doctor immediately for early detection. Institutions like Mesothelioma Cancer Network can also provide further information and assistance.