What Mesothelioma Does to the Body
Asbestos exposure isn’t as big of a problem as it used to be, but the toxic material was once exceedingly prevalent, particularly between the 1940s and 1970s. In fact, an estimate from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) suggests that around 11 million individuals were exposed to the substance in that time period. While it is still legal to use asbestos in certain products in the United States, prolonged exposure has been limited.
If you know anything about asbestos, then you probably understand that it’s largely responsible for the development of mesothelioma, a cancer that forms in the lining of various organs (most commonly, the lungs). What you may not know, however, is that most diagnoses of mesothelioma today have their roots in asbestos exposure dozens of years ago. Someone who worked at a refinery and was exposed to asbestos there in the early 1970s might be getting a diagnosis of mesothelioma in 2018.
Unfortunately, there’s no known effective method for combating asbestos exposure or the occurrence of mesothelioma once it’s started.
Catching the disease early on is vital, but not too common. So, what symptoms should you be on the lookout for?
Stage 1 or 2 Pleural Mesothelioma
As mentioned above, the most common type of mesothelioma develops in the lining of the lungs (or, the pleura). Long-term asbestos exposure leads to asbestos fibers being lodged in the pleura, causing inflammation, fluid buildup, and a general thickening around the lungs. Of course, this can take decades to fully develop, meaning that the symptoms may crop up gradually. Some other early-stage mesothelioma symptoms include:
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pain and other body aches
- Unexpected weight loss
- Frequent coughing
The problem with these symptoms is that they can be easily mistaken for any number of other illnesses. This is why detecting mesothelioma early on is so difficult for medical professionals. If you start feeling these symptoms and can recall any period in your life when you were exposed to asbestos, then it’s important to give your doctor that information.
Symptoms in Stages 3 and 4
If mesothelioma meets no medical resistance, it will progress into a stage 3 or 4 cancer. Regrettably, the survival rate after being diagnosed with late stage mesothelioma is generally only around a year. In the later stages of the disease, patients will see some similar but more severe symptoms compared to early stage mesothelioma. Symptoms include:
- Frequent and often painful coughing
- Coughing up blood
- Fluid buildup in the pleural lining
- Shortness of breath
- Pain when breathing
- General pain in the upper torso
- Obstructions of the bowels
- Limited appetite and resultant weight loss
- Difficulty swallowing
In order to combat mesothelioma effectively, an early diagnosis is key. Try to keep an eye out for any of the early stage symptoms, even if you don’t feel particularly ill. It’s also critical to remember any time in your past in which you might have been exposed to asbestos. This will give your doctors a better overview of your health and a head start on your treatment plan.
If you or a family member has been diagnosed with mesothelioma, call or email us for a free consultation.