Why It’s Important to Know Signs and Symptoms of Mesothelioma
Signs and symptoms of mesothelioma do not make themselves known in the disease’s earliest stages. They are silent and invisible to the human eye. But if it is indeed present, mesothelioma has already started its path of destruction deep inside the body’s tissue.
With a latency period of 20 to 50 years, decades could go by before any signs or symptoms of mesothelioma appear. By the time symptoms finally do emerge, it sadly means mesothelioma is in an advanced stage.
Unfortunately, compounding the tragedy of malignant mesothelioma silently building up and destroying the body’s healthy cells is this frightening fact. The signs and symptoms of mesothelioma can fool you: A simple cough, feeling tired and shortness of breath. Most people might not pay attention to symptoms like these at first. Or they might attribute them to a seasonal flu or being “run down.” That is a tragic mistake because time is of the essence in treating mesothelioma.
Because of mesothelioma’s relentless path, it is vital to see a doctor at the first sign of any mesothelioma signs and symptoms. Go, even if it could possibly turn out to be something else. If it does, be glad. If it doesn’t, also be glad that you detected the illness and soon will receive treatment for it.
One word of caution: beware of misdiagnosis. Do not let a doctor dismiss the signs and symptoms of mesothelioma as a flu or cold. If you suspect you may have mesothelioma, insist on a thorough screening to test for the disease. It is your life. Fight for it.
Why Signs and Symptoms of Mesothelioma Take Decades to Emerge
One reason signs and symptoms of mesothelioma can easily be mistaken for less harmful health problems is that the person who has mesothelioma initially might not recall the exposure that caused it. It was likely decades ago and may have happened without them realizing it.
Malignant mesothelioma has only one cause. It is caused by exposure to asbestos. Specifically, it is caused by inhaling tiny microscopic asbestos fibers released into the air as asbestos dust. This happens when materials containing asbestos are disturbed in any way that causes the asbestos to break down and crumble into dust. It could be from sanding or sawing it, hammering nails into it or breaking it apart in any way. Someone else could be doing this and causing others to breathe in asbestos without even realizing they are being exposed to a lethal toxin.
Once inhaled, the microscopic particles of asbestos get stuck deep in the protective linings of the lungs or heart or another organ. These linings are called mesothelium. Like sand inside an oyster shell, the asbestos particles irritate the cells of the mesothelium. Instead of turning into a pearl, unfortunately the scarred cells can turn into a tumor.
Add decades of time as the asbestos particles silently initiate the process that leads to mesothelioma, and it is easy to understand how someone may be unaware they have the illness until it is advanced.
Recognize Signs and Symptoms of Pleural Mesothelioma
Pleural mesothelioma accounts for over 75% of all mesothelioma cases. So it is important to be familiar with the signs and symptoms of this type of mesothelioma.
Pleural refers to the lining of the lungs which are technically called the pleura. The persistent irritation caused by sharp pointy asbestos particles can trigger inflammation in the pleura. Over time this causes scarring which leads to a thickening of the pleura. Fluid becomes trapped within the thickened pleural walls around the lungs and builds up. This is called pleural effusion. It prevents the lungs from being able to fully expand. Breathing can become painful and there is discomfort in the chest area.
These are the main signs and symptoms of pleural mesothelioma:
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pain
- Persistent coughing
- Pleural effusions (fluid buildup)
- Weight loss
- Body aches
- Difficulty swallowing (later stage)
In addition to being overlooked as just the flu or a cold, these symptoms also can be mistaken for emphysema or tuberculosis. Chest x-rays can reveal the scarring of the lining of the lungs that is the telltale sign of mesothelioma.
Recognizing the Signs and Symptoms of Peritonieal Mesothelioma
Peritoneal mesothelioma is the next most frequent type of mesothelioma after pleural mesothelioma. It occurs in the abdominal area. The peritoneum is the membrane that forms the lining of the abdominal cavity and pelvic area. It is composed of a layer of mesothelium supported by a thin layer of connective tissue. It covers the organs of the abdominal region including the intestinal tract. Just as with the mesothelium in the lungs, the mesothelium can be vulnerable to the inflammation and scarring caused by asbestos particles.
These are the main signs and symptoms of peritoneal mesothelioma:
- Fluid buildup in the abdomen
- Weight loss
- Loss of Appetite
Peritoneal mesothelioma also can easily be misdiagnosed. It is a rare illness and some of the signs and symptoms for this mesothelioma are associated with more common conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome.
Recognizing the Signs and Symptoms of Pericardial Mesothelioma
Pericardial mesothelioma is the type of mesothelioma that attacks the thin membrane surrounding the heart, known as the pericardium. It is the rarest form of mesothelioma at about 1% of all cases. But because of its proximity to the heart, it can be the hardest to treat.
Being a rare disease adds to the difficulty in properly diagnosing pericardial mesothelioma.
The signs and symptoms of pericardial mesothelioma include:
- Chest pain
- Irregular heartbeat
- Difficulty breathing
- Fluid buildup
- Pericardial bleeding
- Pericardial thickening
Pericardial mesothelioma can easily be mistaken for other more common heart conditions and diseases of the pericardium.