Mesothelioma symptoms can be difficult to detect because they are often minor and can be attributed to common conditions, like the flu or the common cold. People with these symptoms tend to ignore them or attempt to treat them at home for a long period of time. By the time patients do see a doctor, their condition may be far advanced. Many patients are not diagnosed until the disease is advanced, especially if they are not proactive with their health.
The second type of mesothelioma, peritoneal mesothelioma, affects the lining of the abdomen. Symptoms include abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, constipation, unexpected weight loss and a swollen belly. Sufferers may also experience fluid buildup, blood clots, and anemia.
According to the American Cancer Society, pleural mesothelioma symptoms include a cough, fatigue, fever, shortness of breath, extreme sweating, unexpected weight loss, hoarseness, and trouble swallowing. Sufferers may also feel a pain in the lower back or in the side of the chest. While these symptoms can indicate a variety of conditions, they are an indicator of a serious health problem.
The second type of mesothelioma, peritoneal mesothelioma, affects the lining of the abdomen. Symptoms include abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, constipation, unexpected weight loss and a swollen belly. Sufferers may also experience fluid buildup, blood clots, and anemia. Again, these symptoms are indicative of different diseases, but together they point to mesothelioma.
The rarest form of this disease is pericardial mesothelioma, a condition that attacks the heart's lining. Those with this condition may feel chest pain or have an irregular heartbeat, difficulty breathing, a persistent cough and other troubling symptoms. These problems are also symptoms of a heart attack and/or pneumonia, so they should never be ignored.
Because these symptoms are so common, they are often overlooked by patients, who may attribute them to other factors. Although mesothelioma is always a serious condition, outcomes improve when it is caught early. Experts recommend having even common symptoms checked by a physician, particularly for those over 50 who have been exposed to asbestos.
Early detection is key to a longer lifespan, but those who have been exposed to asbestos may not experience any symptoms until decades down the road. By the time malignant mesothelioma is diagnosed, the patient likely has less than a year to live. If the condition is caught early, treatments may raise the life expectancy to two years or more. In 20 percent of cases, patients can live for five years. At this point, however, mesothelioma is almost always fatal.
Anyone who has worked in a high-risk profession for this cancer should have regular checkups and seek medical attention as soon as any symptoms develop. If a cough lingers, the patient needs to seek treatment.
Other medical conditions can be caused by asbestos in addition to mesothelioma. When the asbestos fibers collect in the body, the irritation they cause can, over time, result in serious medical issues other than mesothelioma, most notably, asbestosis and lung cancer.
This condition is caused by inhaling asbestos fibers that penetrate lung tissue and lead to scarring that impairs breathing. The scars keep the lungs from properly expanding and contracting.
Symptoms of asbestosis include a chronic cough, chest pain, clubbed fingers, and bluish skin. There is no cure for this condition, and although people can live with it for years, their quality of life is seriously affected, and, in some instances, their life span is shortened.
Lung cancer can be caused by asbestos as well as other factors. When asbestos exposure is combined with tobacco use and other risk factors, the chances of contracting lung cancer rises.
Lung cancer, like mesothelioma, is hard to detect because the symptoms are common ones: chest pain, shortness of breath, chronic cough, fever, drooping eyelids, face swelling,weakness in one arm, and unexplained weight loss.
The life expectancy of small cell lung sufferers is bleak, with approximately six percent of patients living for five years or more. Those with non-small cell lung cancer fare better, with approximately 18 percent of patients living for five years or longer.
All asbestos-caused conditions are serious and most are life-threatening. Because they can appear so long after asbestos exposure, patients often don't make the connection between their former jobs and the current state of their health.
Mesothelioma is the worst of these insidious diseases and often destroys not just the individual's health, but the fabric of the entire family. Early medical intervention is key to expanding the patient's life expectancy. No one who has experienced exposure to high levels of asbestos is safe, even decades after they were exposed.