Mesothelioma is a rare type of cancer caused by exposure to asbestos. The symptoms may appear to be a simple respiratory infection and often they do not appear more than 20 years after exposure.
The mesothelium is a protective membrane that covers the body's organs, including the lungs and the chest cavity. The cancer that forms in these liners is called mesothelioma. This type of cancer can occur near the lungs or abdomen and cause a wide variety of vague symptoms. Mesothelioma is mainly caused by long-term exposure to asbestos; anyone who has worked with asbestos therefore runs a significant risk of developing this cancer.
Mesothelioma: who gets it
Mesothelioma, although it is a serious form of cancer, is quite rare. About 2,000 new cases of mesothelioma are diagnosed each year. Up to 80% of all cases are related to asbestos exposure - although some people diagnosed with mesothelioma have never had obvious sources of asbestos.
Asbestos is in:
Brake materials in cars
Mesothelioma strikes men much more often than women and tends to occur later in life. Mesothelioma is usually not diagnosed until around age 60.
Mesothelioma: where it is
As a general rule, mesothelioma symptoms do not appear until several decades after initial exposure to asbestos. Mesothelioma can be difficult to diagnose because early symptoms, such as coughing or stomach pain, can easily be confused with a simple respiratory infection or simply persistent bellyache. It can also mimic the flu, bronchitis or pneumonia.
The specific symptoms to be treated depend on the location of the cancer. Most often, mesothelioma is found in the breast (pleural mesothelioma); Only about 20% of mesothelioma cases initially develop in the abdominal cavity (peritoneal mesothelioma). Mesothelioma in the tissues surrounding the heart and reproductive organs can also occur, but is extremely unusual.
Pleural mesothelioma: symptoms
Some common symptoms of mesothelioma in the breast include:
Unexpected weight loss
- Difficulty swallowing
- Weakness and fatigue
- Duplication of the face and arms
Peritoneal mesothelioma: symptoms
The symptoms of mesothelioma in the abdomen include:
-Nausea and vomiting
Anyone who has these symptoms and has been exposed to asbestos should be examined by a doctor. The more mesothelioma is diagnosed and treated early, the better the chances of slowing down.
Mesothelioma: Get a diagnosis
Mesothelioma can be diagnosed with a chest x-ray, CT scan, positron emission tomography (PET) or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to locate tumors in the thoracic or abdominal region. Tissue samples taken from abnormal areas observed during an imaging test are examined in the laboratory and used to confirm a diagnosis of mesothelioma.
Mesothelioma is difficult to treat. Once diagnosed, the cancer is usually at an advanced stage. The average survival time is only one or two years after diagnosis. The five-year survival rate for mesothelioma is about 10%.
If you have ever worked with asbestos or materials that may contain it, it is important to recognize the potential warning signs of mesothelioma. Early recognition and treatment offer the best possible chance of managing mesothelioma and minimizing associated complications.