What You Need to Know About Mesothelioma
Mesothelioma is a rare and aggressive cancer caused primarily by either inhaling or ingesting a toxic mineral called asbestos. With between 2,500 and 3,000 cases of mesothelioma every year in the United States, it’s rare, but common enough that the possibility can’t be dismissed if you have symptoms.
Whether you’ve heard of mesothelioma or you’re just starting to research, in this article, you’ll learn everything you need to know about this cancer, including how to get the proper medical care.
1. What is mesothelioma?
The first thing you need to know about mesothelioma is that it’s a rare form of cancer almost always caused by exposure to asbestos. The symptoms take decades to appear, which makes it hard to diagnose at early stages. Worse, mesothelioma symptoms mimic common ailments like asthma, COPD, and pneumonia, which increases the likelihood of misdiagnosis and prolongs treatment.
The following are common symptoms of mesothelioma:
· Trouble breathing
· Weight loss
· Lost appetite
· Night sweats
· Chest or abdominal pain
· Pleural effusion (fluid build-up in the pleura)
· Pericardial effusion (fluid build-up in the pericardium)
2. Who is at risk for developing mesothelioma?
According to statistics, men make up 77% of cases and 93% are Caucasian. Additionally, 80% of people diagnosed are between the ages of 55 and 84, which makes sense given the length of time it takes to show symptoms.
Those most at risk are miners, veterans, construction workers, plumbers, electricians, and auto repair mechanics. These professions have the highest potential to expose a person to asbestos because they are constantly surrounded by materials made with this toxic mineral. For instance, the U.S. military used asbestos when building aircraft, barracks, and other buildings.
Asbestos is also commonly used to make insulation, concrete, electrical components, and other building materials used in construction. You might be surprised to learn that even some automobile parts – like brakes and clutches – contain asbestos.
If you spent any time working in these professions and you have symptoms that aren’t getting better on their own or through your current treatments, you might have mesothelioma without knowing.
3. How dangerous is asbestos?
Considering asbestos fibers can cause cancer, it’s pretty dangerous. The problem is that asbestos is a sharp, jagged, sometimes curly fibrous mineral that becomes lodged in tissue when inhaled or eaten. It doesn’t leave the body, which causes prolonged inflammation wherever it lands. For instance, in the lining of the lungs, stomach, and sometimes the heart. As inflammation continues and increases, the result is cancer.
Although dangerous, asbestos isn’t too harmful unless or until it’s disturbed and made airborne. This is how it gets breathed in and ingested in dust form. When properly contained and undisturbed, it doesn’t pose a major health risk. The problem is that it doesn’t take much to disturb it. For example, punching a hole in the wall – no matter how small – can disturb insulation that contains asbestos and this simple issue will instantly become a major health hazard.
If you know or suspect the presence of asbestos in your home, don’t attempt to remove it yourself. Call a professional to handle the job. The same goes for performing renovations. If you haven’t had your home tested for asbestos, a simple remodel job could potentially expose you to this dangerous toxin.
4. How to get medical care if you think you have mesothelioma
Do you have some of the symptoms associated with mesothelioma? Do you suspect you’ve been exposed to asbestos at some point, no matter how small? If so, your best course of action is to find a specialist in your area to get a diagnosis. It’s possible that you don’t have mesothelioma, but it’s better to get confirmation from a specialist, especially if you’ve been suffering for a while and aren’t seeing any improvement. It’s possible you’ve been misdiagnosed.
The reason you need to see a specialist is because most general physicians aren’t trained to spot this rare cancer. Symptoms are identical to other, more common health issues that GPs are more familiar with, which is why people get misdiagnosed.
5. Consider a lawsuit to cover your medical bills
The last thing you need to know is that people frequently file lawsuits to recover damages for exposure to asbestos. Most mesothelioma lawsuits settle for $1 million or more. It all depends on the circumstances of the case, the judge, and the jury.
There are treatments for mesothelioma
If you do have mesothelioma, it isn’t curable, but it can be treated. There are several types of treatments available. For some cases, surgery might be appropriate. Other people get chemotherapy, immunotherapy, and other forms of therapy that target the area(s) with cancer. If you get a positive diagnosis, ask your doctor what your options are to get the treatment you need.