You may have read news stories about mesothelioma, or perhaps you have seen television commercials for attorneys seeking to represent mesothelioma patients in filing civil lawsuits. You may know that mesothelioma is associated with asbestos exposure, but you may not understand the disease itself, or recognize its symptoms. However, recognizing symptoms commonly associated with this rare form of cancer may allow you to receive potentially life saving treatment sooner rather than later.
DISCLAIMER: This article addresses general symptoms and treatment options associated with mesothelioma. It is not intended to represent medical opinion or advice. Please consult a physician with specific questions concerning your health.
What Is Mesothelioma?
Mesothelioma is a rare and very aggressive type of cancer that attacks the layer of membrane covering your internal organs, the mesothelium. The most common cause for mesothelioma is exposure to asbestos. In past decades, before the dangers of asbestos were well known, thousands of workers in the shipbuilding, metal works and metal manufacturing industries were exposed to high levels of asbestos with no protection from inhaling or ingesting asbestos fibers.
However, asbestos exposure occurs outside of heavy industry – roof shingles, insulation and vehicle braking systems all commonly used asbestos, which has high heat resistant qualities. If you were exposed to materials that include asbestos in your home, or if you live with someone who was exposed to asbestos at work, you are also at heightened risk.
Along with being a rare form of cancer, many of the mesothelioma symptoms are also associated with other disorders, while others often occur even in the absence of serious illness. However, persistent pain in the lower back, side of the chest or in the abdomen may be warning signs for mesothelioma. If you have any of these symptoms, make an appointment with your physician right away, especially if you have been exposed to asbestos.
Other warning signs for mesothelioma include shortness of breath, persistent cough and sweating unrelated to exertion or heat. Other symptoms that could indicate mesothelioma include hoarseness and trouble swallowing, abdominal swelling and unexplained lumps under the surface of your skin. Pericardial mesothelioma, which is associated with tissue surrounding the heart, may produce chest pain and shortness of breath that mimic the symptoms of a heart attack.
Conventional and Emerging Mesothelioma Treatments
The three most conventional forms of treatment for mesothelioma are surgery, chemotherapy and radiation treatment. Some physicians combine two or more forms of treatment, depending on the location of the cancer and how widespread it is. Doctors often perform surgery when the cancer is in its early stages, when removal may result in a cure. However, surgery may also be used before radiation or chemotherapy. For cancer that has spread, chemotherapy or radiation treatments are often called for, either alone or in combination with one another.
Research in mesothelioma treatment has focused on chemotherapy drugs that target cancer cells while sparing healthy cells. Other drugs under development are designed to slow angiogenesis, the process where the body forms new blood vessels, and which is associated with spreading mesothelioma. Experimental gene therapy uses specially modified viruses which are injected into infected areas, with the hope that the modified virus encourages the body’s own immune cells to fight the cancer.
Find out more about Mesothelioma Help – Symptoms.
For Further Reading
- American Cancer Society: Malignant Mesothelioma
- Mayo Clinic: Mesothelioma
- Mesothelioma Asbestos and Awareness Center: Mesothelioma