Of all the diseases that a person can develop or be born with, cancer is definitely one of the most feared. The worst types of cancer are those that don’t have any obvious symptoms in the early stages, and Mesothelioma is included in this list.
Mesothelioma is a rare, aggressive and potentially life threatening type of cancer that affects the lining of the lungs, abdomen, and other organs. It is caused by exposure to asbestos, a fibrous mineral that was widely used in construction and manufacturing before its health hazards were discovered, after which it was made illegal in many countries. But unfortunately, the damage had already been done and many people fell ill over the course of time. Mesothelioma has a very long latency (dormancy) period, meaning that symptoms may not appear until decades after the initial exposure to asbestos.
Listed below are the various symptoms to watch out for that may occur in the early stages of mesothelioma, along with the available treatment options, risk factors and preventative measures.
Symptoms of Early Stage Mesothelioma
In its beginning phases, the symptoms may be very mild or totally absent. The most common symptoms of this type of cancer is chest pain, shortness of breath, and coughing, but patients may also experience fatigue, unexplained weight loss, fever and night sweats. In some cases, patients may even experience abdominal pain, swelling, or nausea if the cancer affects the abdominal lining.
Diagnosing mesothelioma in its early stages can be exceedingly difficult, as the symptoms are often nonspecific and similar to those of various other respiratory conditions. Doctors typically start with a physical exam, followed by imaging tests such as X-rays, CT scans, and MRI scans.
If these tests reveal any abnormalities, doctors will perform a biopsy to confirm the presence of mesothelioma. A biopsy is a quick procedure that involves removing a small sample of tissue for close – up and thorough examination under a microscope.
Overall, the earlier this cancer is detected, the more effective the treatment options will be. With that said, the most effective treatment for early stage mesothelioma is surgery, which aims to remove as much of the cancerous tissue as possible. The type of surgery largely depends on the location and the extent of the cancer.
In cases of pleural mesothelioma, which affects the lining of the lungs, doctors may perform a pleurectomy or a pneumonectomy. A pleurectomy removes the affected lining of the lung, while a pneumonectomy removes the entire lung. In cases of peritoneal mesothelioma (which affects the lining of the abdomen), doctors may perform a debulking surgery, which involves removing as much of the cancerous tissue as possible.
This kind of cancer can also be treated with radiation therapy and chemotherapy. Radiation therapy uses high-energy rays to kill cancer cells and shrink tumors. Chemotherapy uses drugs to kill cancer cells throughout the body. These treatments may be used alone or in combination with surgery, depending on the individual case.
Additionally, as a complimentary form of treatment aimed at easing pain, many patients have reported that they find significant relief from pain and other symptoms of primary mesothelioma treatments via the use of natural remedies and other alternative methods, such as acupressure, Acupuncture, TENS therapy, yoga and more. Furthermore, these alternative remedies and treatments have also shown to have an effect on killing cancerous cells and slowing down the progression of the disease.
The primary risk factor for mesothelioma is exposure to asbestos, especially if it’s prolonged. Asbestos was widely used in construction and manufacturing until the 1970s, when its health hazards were first discovered. Workers in industries such as shipbuilding, construction, and automotive manufacturing are at highest risk for asbestos exposure. Family members of workers who were exposed to asbestos may also be at risk, as they may have been exposed to the fibers on the workers’ clothing or via other means.
Other risk factors include smoking and exposure to other carcinogens, such as radiation and certain chemicals. Although smoking by itself does not cause mesothelioma, it can indeed increase your risk if you do get exposed to asbestos at any given point. Worse still, radiation therapy for other types of cancer may also increase the risk of developing mesothelioma as well.
The best way to prevent mesothelioma is to avoid exposure to asbestos altogether. This can be done by following safety guidelines and regulations in industries where asbestos may be present, such as wearing protective clothing and equipment, and using proper ventilation and safety procedures.
If you suspect that you or someone you know may have been exposed to asbestos, it is important to inform your doctor and get regular check-ups to monitor for any signs of mesothelioma.
Like any other form of cancer, mesothelioma is a scary and worrisome disease that nobody wants to think about, as it can be fatal. But early detection is key for best treatment and prognosis, so it’s highly recommended to get checked for this type and other types of cancers at least once a year.
Lastly, there are support groups available to help comfort, give hope and encouragement to patients and their loved ones as they battle the cancer, while providing them with ways to cope with it better on a daily basis.