It is important to be aware of what type of body changes can signify a potential problem. Mesothelioma is a difficult cancer to diagnose and often is not diagnosed until the disease has reached the later stages. Many people and doctors mistake the warning signs for other common illnesses such as a cold or upper respiratory infection. If you have been exposed to asbestos, don’t wait until your symptoms have a negative impact on your life before you see a physician. The stage of mesothelioma at the time of diagnosis helps determine a patient’s prognosis and life expectancy. It has been reported that about 25% of patients that have complained of dyspnea and chest pain waited up to 6 months before they even went to see their family physician, let alone a mesothelioma specialist.
Know the Warning Signs
The symptoms of mesothelioma come in a variety of forms but the way they develop are unique. The symptoms vary depending on the stage and type of cancer. Tumors can cause irritation or fluid buildup in the abdomen or the lungs which in turn causes these warning signs listed below. Mesothelioma symptoms can sometimes be a predictor of your prognosis.
Symptoms of Pleural Mesothelioma
Over a long period of time of asbestos fibers being trapped in the lining of the lungs (pleura), pleural mesothelioma is almost inevitable. The tiny fibers cause inflammation and irritation in the pleura, which in turn causes a thickening of the linings of the pleura. This thickening is the result of fluid buildup between the linings and this could prevent the lung from expanding (breathing). A very popular palliative treatment for this fluid buildup is called, Thoracentesis.
Chest discomfort and pain while breathing are very common when discussing the symptoms of pleural mesothelioma, but the following is a more extensive list:
- Chest pain
- Faint or hoarse breathing sounds
- Shortness of breath
- Dry cough and/or wheezing
- Pleural effusions
- Coughing up blood
- Body aches
- Blood clotting disorders
Peritoneal Mesothelioma Symptoms
Peritoneal mesothelioma develops in the lining that surrounds the abdominal cavity. 20% of patients associated loss of appetite and weight loss as a symptom and were subsequently diagnosed with peritoneal mesothelioma.
- Abdominal distention
- Weight loss
- Loss of appetite
- Abdominal swelling and/or tenderness
- Feeling of fullness
- Bowel obstruction
Testicular Mesothelioma Symptoms
The only consistent sign of this type of mesothelioma is a lump in the testes. Testicular mesothelioma is the rarest and accounts for only less than 1% of all mesothelioma cases.
- Lump in the testes
Emergence of Mesothelioma Symptoms
In the beginning stages of mesothelioma, the symptoms appear in subtle, almost imperceptible ways. The symptoms are so small that the doctor thinks it is another disorder or you just ignore them completely. You may not even relate the symptoms you are having to mesothelioma since the first signs don’t appear until at least 20 years after asbestos exposure. It takes decades for asbestos related cancer to develop and it isn’t until the tumors are well developed that they impact your life.
FAST FACT: Studies indicate that the latency period is longer for women.
The majority of people diagnosed with mesothelioma are diagnosed in stage lll or lV, which is considered the late stages of this cancer.
Indications The Mesothelioma Has Spread
When the cancer has spread the symptoms generally do not show up in the affected area. Some of the more common symptoms that appear when mesothelioma has spread include:
- Laryngeal nerve palsy (hoarseness)
- Dysphagia (difficulty swallowing)
- Superior Vena Cava Syndrome (obstruction of a heart vein)
- Horner’s syndrome (facial nerve damage)
- Hypoglycemia (low blood sugar)
- Nerve involvement of the arm
From Mesothelioma Symptoms to (Mis)Diagnosis
Many patients seek medical advice only after their symptoms have intensified and have had a significant impact on their lives. Patients do not know that the early symptoms are their first warning signs.
Doctors who do not specialize in mesothelioma will often diagnose a patient’s condition as a bronchial infection or pneumonia without even considering pleural mesothelioma. This is the time to speak up if you have been exposed to asbestos some time in your past.
Patient’s with peritoneal are also misdiagnosed. They may be initially diagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome or ovarian cancer.
Pericardial mesothelioma often gets confused with heart failure or other illnesses common for the heart. It is easy to misdiagnose as it is one of the rarest forms of mesothelioma.
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