Mesothelioma is a rare form of cancer that is caused due to exposure to asbestos. While there are several types of mesothelioma, it is most commonly found in the lining of the lungs and abdomen.
In most patients, mesothelioma is detected only when it has reached an advance stage. Why? This is because serious mesothelioma symptoms can take up to 10-15 years to show up. Until this period, the patient does not have any unusual cancer-related symptoms. Early stage symptoms such as colds, coughs, and fatigue are so common and associated with so many other bodily disorders that they are seldom taken as symptoms of mesothelioma. This is what makes the prognosis of mesothelioma patients so poor.
Types of Mesothelioma
Before talking any more about the symptoms of mesothelioma, it is important to know the different types of mesothelioma as certain symptoms are specific to the type of cancer.
There are five kinds of mesothelioma:
Pleural mesothelioma: develops in the lining of the lungs
Peritoneal mesothelioma : develops in the lining of the abdomen cavity
Pericardial mesothelioma : affects the lining of the heart
Pericardial mesothelioma : affects the testes
Omental mesothelioma : affects the abdomen
Pleural Mesothelioma, which is cancer in the lining of the lungs is the most common type of mesothelioma. Here are the most common symptoms:
Pleural effusions are one of the most important and definitive symptoms of Pleural Mesothelioma. A pleural effusion is a build-up of fluid between parietal pleura and the visceral pleura. One research points out that close to 90% of Pleural mesothelioma patients had Pleural effusions.
Shortness of breath is the second most common symptom related to Pleural Mesothelioma. Some of the other symptoms include the following.
- Pain in chest / ribs while breathing
- Dry cough
- Weight loss with no apparent reason
Peritoneal Mesothelioma Symptoms
Peritoneal Mesothelioma is the second most common type of mesothelioma and occurs in the lining of the abdominal cavity known as the peritoneum.
With Pleural Mesothelioma, where the most common and definitive symptom seems to be Pleural effusions, in Peritoneal Mesothelioma, it is a build-up of fluid between the peritoneum and the abdominal organs called Ascites. Some of the other symptoms of peritoneal mesothelioma includes:
- Pain / swelling in abdomen area
- Weight loss without any reason
- Nausea and vomiting
Pericardial Mesothelioma Symptoms
Pericardial Mesothelioma occurs in the lining of the heart, which is called the pericardium. This cancer is relatively rare as compared to the above two. The most common symptoms of this type of mesothelioma are:
- Problems in breathing is one of the most common symptom
- Patients also witness chest pain
- Fever and sweating
- As in case of other mesothelioma types, here too sudden weight loss may take place.
The other two forms of mesothelioma are very rare and their symptoms are not very well established.
How to Diagnose Mesothelioma at an Early Stage
An early diagnosis of mesothelioma can help in its effective treatment and extend the life of the patient, but as discussed, it is not easy to do. Here are some simple tips that can really help in early diagnosis.
Know your work history: If you’re current or past workplace involved dealing with asbestos or its products, then you face higher risks of asbestos exposure and mesothelioma. If this is true, then you should take sudden weight loss, chest pain, and coughs (which last for a long time) seriously. As you can see, all of them are common symptoms of mesothelioma.
Know your living environment: If your house is located near an asbestos mine or a factory that processes asbestos, you need to be extra cautious and take the above mentioned symptoms seriously.
Be honest with your doctor: The key point here is to be extra cautious, even for common symptoms, if you feel that you might have been exposed to asbestos. Remember, you need to consider the last 10-20 years of your personal history, since mesothelioma takes a long time to develop. Thus, in the case of such symptoms, visit your doctor and mention your past history with asbestos and insist on having a detailed check-up.