Mesothelioma and Asbestos
Cancer is always dangerous, but some forms are worse than others. Mesothelioma is a relatively rare form of cancer in which malignant (cancerous) cells are found in the mesothelium, a protective sac that covers most of the body’s internal organs. Working with asbestos is a major risk factor for mesothelioma, with a history of asbestos exposure at work reported in 70 to 80 percent of mesothelioma cases. That is not always the case, however, as mesothelioma has been reported in some individuals without any known exposure to asbestos. Nevertheless, evidence demonstrates that asbestos exposure greatly increases the risk for developing mesothelioma. So how do you know if you have mesothelioma and how can it be treated?
Symptoms of mesothelioma may not appear until 30 to 50 years after asbestos exposure. If you do experience symptoms, however, they can consist of shortness of breath, pain in the chest, weight loss, abdominal pain and swelling due to a buildup of fluid in the abdomen. Other symptoms may include bowel obstruction, blood clotting abnormalities, anemia, and fever. In addition, if the cancer has spread to other parts of the body, symptoms may include pain, trouble swallowing, or swelling of the neck or face. If you do experience any of these symptoms it is critical to visit and disclose those symptoms to your physician.
Diagnosis and Treatment
Your physician will likely request CT scans and/or MRI to assist with mesothelioma diagnosis. If your doctor suspects that you may have Mesothelioma, a biopsy should be performed to confirm that diagnosis. Following the biopsy, your physician might determine that you have mesothelioma.
The next step is to figure out how to treat the cancer. The treatment differs depending on the location of the cancer, the stage of the disease, and the patient’s age and general health. Standard treatment options include surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy and sometimes a combination of these treatments. In addition, because mesothelioma is very difficult to control, the National Cancer Institute is sponsoring clinical trials that are designed to find new treatments and better ways to use current treatments.
While Mesothelioma has been reported in some individuals without any known exposure to asbestos, the large majority of Mesothelioma cases occur as a result of asbestos exposure. If there was any doubt about the dangers of asbestos, one need look no further than the fact that, in addition to mesothelioma, exposure to asbestos increases the risk of lung cancer, asbestosis and other cancers, like that of the larynx and kidney. Patients also should be aware that the combination of smoking and asbestos exposure can significantly increases a person’s risk of developing lung cancer.
Asbestos exposure and mesothelioma should not be taken lightly. The risk of asbestos related disease increases with greater exposure. That is why those employees who experience daily exposure to asbestos at the workplace, should be acutely aware of the symptoms associated with mesothelioma. If those people experience symptoms, it is critical to see a physician without delay. But family members of asbestos workers should also be on high alert because there is some evidence that family members and others living with asbestos workers have an increased risk of developing mesothelioma. Measures should always be taken to prevent exposure to asbestos. It is just as important, however, to be aware of the symptoms associated with mesothelioma, and if you experience those symptoms to see your physician and receive the treatment you need.
Related Topic: What is Mesothelioma?