Symptoms of Mesothelioma
The most common symptoms of this cancer are shortness of breath, chest pains, weight loss, malaise, and loss of energy. Peritoneal mesothelioma symptoms include abdominal discomfort and swelling or lumps in the abdomen. Pleural mesothelioma symptoms include pain under the rib cage and a cough that typically does not produce phlegm.
Because these symptoms are common to many illnesses, patients are often misdiagnosed. Most doctors have little or no experience with mesothelioma, so patients often go through a series of tests and referrals to other doctors before an accurate diagnosis is reached. An unfortunate characteristic of this cancer is that doctors may perceive early symptoms - mild and nonspecific - as minor ailments, rather than a more serious asbestos-related cancer. In fact it is often over six months between the first symptoms of disease and diagnosis of mesothelioma.
Dysphagia – difficulty in swallowing – is also a symptom of pleural mesothelioma, but usually in the more advanced stages. Unlike cancer of the esophagus or lungs, it is rare for mesothelioma patients to spit up blood or to have swollen lymph glands.
People with peritoneal mesothelioma generally display one of two patterns of symptoms when they seek medical care: (1) abdominal pain, usually localized and related to a dominant tumor mass with little or no ascites, or (2) without abdominal pain, but with ascites and abdominal distention.
If a patient doesn’t show these symptoms, he or she may fail to complain to the doctor and the doctor may not do a detailed examination that could unearth the cancer. This is one reason mesothelioma is so tough – it’s often there but undiagnosed for years.
More typical cancer symptoms show up only at an advanced stage in mesothelioma, at which time valuable treatment time has been lost.
Malignant mesothelioma occurs almost exclusively in individuals who have had environmental contact with asbestos, and onset of symptoms can occur decades after exposure. Doctors who suspect mesothelioma may request a history of the patient’s worklife, with a particular emphasis on asbestos exposure, and anyone who worked with asbestos in the past should make his doctor aware of that history.
Given the low incidence of this cancer, most doctors have little
experience with it, and will usually refer patients to specialized
centers. Mesothelioma Aid can help you find cancer centers and specialists,
and we can also help you find clinical trials for new treatments.
Free Information Packet on Mesothelioma
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