Symptoms of Mesothelioma
There are three types of mesothelioma that can strike those exposed to asbestos. Mesothelioma is a type of cancer that develops in the protective covering that surrounds the body's organs. The coverings that can be affected by mesothelioma are the one surrounding the heart, the abdomen, and most commonly the lungs. While some of the symptoms of mesothelioma are similar regardless of what area of the body affected, other symptoms are more specific. Knowing the symptoms of mesothelioma is important if you have ever been exposed to asbestos. Because the early warning signs of mesothelioma are similar to other medical conditions, knowing that you are at risk of mesothelioma prevents your doctor from wasting time before diagnosing the disease.
Common Symptoms of Mesothelioma
Symptoms of mesothelioma that are common to all types of the disease include fatigue, night sweats, weight loss and fever. These symptoms are common to a variety of diseases and are not in and of themselves enough to make a diagnosis. If you develop any of these symptoms, and have reason to believe that you have suffered from exposure to asbestos, you should speak with your physician about your concerns. While mesothelioma is not the only disease that can cause these symptoms, it is the most deadly. While your doctor will want to rule out other, more benign conditions, you should alert him to the fact that mesothelioma is a possibility.
Symptoms of Pleural Mesothelioma
Pleural mesothelioma is the most common form of the disease. Pleural mesothelioma develops in the protective lining around the lungs. Many people misunderstand pleural mesothelioma and believe that it is the same as lung cancer. This is not so. Pleural mesothelioma develops outside the lungs, between the covering of the lungs, and the covering of the lung cavity. As you can imagine, this is a very narrow space, and tumors that develop here are nearly invisible on x-ray until they have progressed to the point where treatment is not likely to be effective.
Patients that suffer from pleural mesothelioma often develop a persistent cough and chest pain in addition to the other common symptoms of mesothelioma. Once the mesothelioma has progressed, the patient may develop pleural effusions. This is a build up of normally healthy fluid in the pleura surrounding the lungs. This fluid is over produced, which leads to additional pain and shortness of breath as the lungs struggle to expand in their shrinking space. Doctors treat pleural effusions by installing a chest drain that allows the fluid to drain from the body.
Symptoms of Peritoneal Mesothelioma
Peritoneal mesothelioma is mesothelioma that develops in the abdominal cavity. In addition to the common symptoms of mesothelioma listed above, a patient suffering from peritoneal mesothelioma also may experience abdominal pain and swelling. This is from the build up of fluid in the abdominal cavity. In the case of effusions that develop in the abdominal cavity, gravity works with the fluid, allowing it to drain. While this may prevent major swelling in the abdomen, it means that the patient will develop swelling in the feet and legs.
In addition to the symptoms brought on by excessive fluid build up, the patient with peritoneal mesothelioma can expect to develop weight loss and anemia, as well as a variety of other digestive issues as tumors develop and spread in the abdomen.
Symptoms of Pericardial Mesothelioma
The least common form of mesothelioma, but possibly the most frightening, pericardial mesothelioma develops in the protective covering around the heart. While researchers understand how asbestos fibers reach the lungs and stomach area to wreck havoc, they are unclear how these fibers reach the heart. Asbestos fibers typically enter the body by ingesting them or inhaling them. To reach the heart many researchers believe that the asbestos fibers started in the lungs, and broken into microscopic sized pieces, enter the bloodstream, where they settle in the heart.
The two main symptoms that develop in pericardial mesothelioma that differentiate it from other forms of mesothelioma are chest pain and an irregular heart beat. Both of these symptoms are a direct result of fluid build up from effusions in the area. The chest pain occurs because of the pressure caused by the fluid, while the irregular heartbeat is the result of the fluid causing pressure on the heart, affecting its ability to maintain a normal rhythm.
Making Sense of the Symptoms
With the variety of symptoms that the mesothelioma patient may experience, it is easy to understand why mesothelioma is so difficult to diagnose. Any delay in diagnosis leads to a decrease in the chances of a successful outcome. Anyone who experiences symptoms of mesothelioma should contact their doctor and share their concerns. Because of the extended latency period between the exposure to asbestos and the development of mesothelioma, it is important that you inform your doctor that you were, or suspect that you were exposed to asbestos sometime in your life.