Symptoms and warning signs of malignant mesothelioma are often difficult to notice because they don’t manifest until several decades after asbestos exposure. When symptoms do finally appear, they are often mild in the beginning and most people haven’t a clue that these are actually warning signs of a dire medical issue.
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Beware: Mesothelioma Can Mimic the Common Cold
The majority of victims do not seek help even after the first symptoms of mesothelioma arrive because the ailments, as previously stated, closely mimic common respiratory illnesses.
To complicate matters even worse, pleural mesothelioma victims are prone to pneumonia. Yet, instead of connecting pneumonia to mesothelioma, the victim is oftentimes treated for pneumonia only.
In addition to cold and/or flu-like symptoms, some of the earliest indications and warning signs of mesothelioma cancer are lethargy, coughing, body aches, and shortness of breath.
As previously mentioned, these symptoms are so similar to colds and cases of flu that many victims still continue to ignore the early warning signs. Keep in mind that these symptoms apply to all forms of mesothelioma, but additional symptoms and warning signs may develop as well, depending upon the type of mesothelioma you have.
Symptoms of Pleural Mesothelioma
Since lung mesothelioma affects the chest area and respiratory system, many of the symptoms of pleural mesothelioma will be in that area of the body. Hacking, dry coughs, wheezing, chest pain, the inability to fully expand the chest, and dyspnea are some of the most common warning signs and evidence of pleural mesothelioma.
In addition, close to 60% of mesothelioma victims have complained of back pain, usually in the lower area of the back. Sometimes the pain will spread from the chest into the shoulder areas.
Pleural plaques are another common sign of pleural mesothelioma but usually will go undetected unless medical treatment is sought. Imaging machines almost always need to be used to see pleural plaques. Pleural plaques appear in clusters scattered throughout the victim’s chest area, ranging in sizes up to 6 cm and more.
In severe cases of pleural mesothelioma, victims may experience:
- Tumor masses
- A lung collapsing
- Coughing up blood
- Blood clots in the veins
- Blood clots in the lung’s arteries (pulmonary emboli)
- Extreme swelling in the face and arms
- Dysphagia (difficulty with swallowing)
Symptoms of Peritoneal Mesothelioma
Peritoneal mesothelioma attacks the cells’ walls that line the abdomen, otherwise known as the mesothelium. The mesothelium contains two layers of cells that cover and protect the body’s internal organs.
When the cells around the abdomen are affected, they become abnormal, multiply, and become cancerous. When asbestos fibers are ingested or inhaled, they can make their way down to the peritoneum.
Most cases of peritoneal mesothelioma are caused by working at a job site that was at one time associated with high amounts of asbestos use. In addition, peritoneal mesothelioma is a rare form of mesothelioma, affecting under 2 people per million in the United States each year.
Physician will normally suspect peritoneal mesothelioma when patients complain of the most common symptoms (see symptoms below). A series of tests and scans are performed before an accurate diagnosis is made.
The only sure way to determine if a victim is suffering from peritoneal mesothelioma is through fluid testing. A needle is used to withdraw fluid via the abdominal area.
The fluid is then sent off to diagnostics for tests. If malignant cells are found, further testing will follow, which is necessary in order to confirm the cells are malignant.
- Abdominal Pain and Swelling
- Fluid buildup up in the abdominal area
- Fatigue and lethargy
- Lumps of tissue clumped together in the abdominal area (usually under the skin)
- Unusual weight loss
- Shortness of breath
- Difficulty with breathing
- Cachexia (loss of appetite and physical weakness)
- Night sweats
- Changes in bowel movements: bouts of constipation and/or diarrhea
Symptoms of Pericardial Mesothelioma
Pericardial mesothelioma attacks the lining of the heart. It’s currently the most rare form of mesothelioma. How asbestos fibers reach the lining of the heart is still unknown, but scientists said that since the fibers are so small, there’s a chance they go into the body’s bloodstream and then make their to the heart lining.
Mesothelioma in other areas, such as pleural mesothelioma, can eventually grow to a point where it reaches the pericardial area.
Victims of pericardial mesothelioma most often have a poor prognosis. Physicians will usually look for treatments as a means to reduce pressure and relieve pain, such as radiation therapy and chemotherapy, instead of a way to remove the cancer.
Detailed diagnostic and biopsy testing sessions are usually performed before an accurate diagnosis can be made.
- Chest pain
- Thickening of the pericardium
- Feeling tired and sluggish
Testicular and Ovarian Mesothelioma
If males are suffering from testicular mesothelioma, tumors will be present in the testicles, and females suffering from ovarian mesothelioma will have ovarian tumors and cysts.
More research is still needed on these two forms of mesothelioma in order to get a more accurate description of additional symptoms. As science continues to progress, more information on these types of mesothelioma cancers will become available.
Currently, scientists have a few theories on how victims develop testicular mesothelioma. One theory suggests that cancerous growth from other areas of the body somehow amass to a point in which the testicles are affected. Another theory suggests that nodules on the serosal surface of the testicles eventually develop into mesothelioma.
The nodules, typically firm and either yellow or white in color, will thicken over time, which causes abnormal cells to quickly grow and multiply.
Although testicular and ovarian mesothelioma cancer are extremely rare, the life expectancy of victims is grim. On average, victims are often told that life expectancy is less than two years.
Timespan Before Mesothelioma Symptoms Arrive
Again, it usually takes quite some time before the first symptoms of mesothelioma emerge. Physicians state that most often it takes anywhere from 30 to 50 years after the exposure of asbestos for the first mesothelioma symptoms to appear.
This goes for all types of mesothelioma, although symptoms for peritoneal mesothelioma tend to show up slightly sooner, at anywhere from 20 to 30 years. If you’ve been exposed to asbestos or think you’ve been exposed, it’s imperative that you not only inform your doctor, but also have regular health check-ups.
In a study performed by the National Center for Biotechnology Information, it was determined that the average period before mesothelioma detection is around 32 years. Since the symptoms are mild at first, most victims don’t get diagnosed until much later, when the disease has progressed and the symptoms have become much worse.
When to See Your Doctor
Most mesothelioma victims wait until they begin having severe symptoms before consulting with a physician. It’s extremely important to make an appointment and have a check-up as soon as possible if you’ve been exposed to asbestos.
Letting your doctor know that you’ve been exposed can help you get a diagnosis more quickly, which can help you start mesothelioma treatments as soon as possible.
It’s also important to remember that not all victims will experience the same symptoms. While some victims may only exhibit a few of the common symptoms, others may experience the full range of symptoms.
Regardless, even the first hint of a cold or respiratory illness should be considered serious by anyone who has been exposed to asbestos.
Where to Get Medical Help
When dealing with an asbestos-related illness, it’s important to seek medical help from doctors and clinics who specialize in these forms of cancers. Mesothelioma is considered a new disease, but several physicians possess in-depth training and research on asbestos-related illnesses.
In addition, medical centers backed by National Cancer Institute (NCI) are considered the forefront in dealing with all types of cancers, including malignant mesothelioma, asbestosis, lung cancer, and more. It’s recommended that victims of asbestos diseases seek treatment at a NCI-designated medical facility.
To learn more about services and treatment and to find an NCI-designated facility in your area, call the National Cancer Institute to inquire about treatment centers close to you.
Don’t forget to fill out our form to get our free Financial Compensation Packet, filled with information qualified asbestos and mesothelioma attorneys in your area. For additional assistance, contact us at 800-793-4540.
Page Reviewed and Edited by Mesothelioma Attorney Paul Danziger
Paul Danziger grew up in Houston, Texas and earned a law degree from Northwestern University School of Law in Chicago. For over 25 years years he has focused on representing mesothelioma cancer victims and others hurt by asbestos exposure. Paul and his law firm have represented thousands of people diagnosed with mesothelioma, asbestosis, and lung cancer, recovering significant compensation for injured clients. Every client is extremely important to Paul and he will take every call from clients who want to speak with him. Paul and his law firm handle mesothelioma cases throughout the United States.