Mesothelioma is a type of cancer that is common among people who have been exposed to asbestos. Because of this causation, most mesothelioma patients tend to be men of retirement age, who may have worked with asbestos in unsafe conditions three to five decades ago. Nowadays there are precautions in place for working with this dangerous substance
The cancer may also be found in those who had close contact with asbestos workers, since particles of it can get trapped in hair and clothes.
Mesothelioma is difficult to treat, and most patients do not respond to the standard cancer treatments. It is also very hard to diagnose since the symptoms – which could include coughing, difficulties with breathing, weight loss, fever and difficulties swallowing – are the same as for many other diseases.
This is why anyone who thinks they may have been regularly exposed to asbestos particles should be sure to tell their physician. Be sure to let your doctor know if you have worked with asbestos in an unsafe environment (fully protective chemical suits and breathing masks are what asbestos workers now must wear, so anything less is considered unprotected), or anyone who spent significant time with someone who worked with the material.
Mesothelioma afflicts the cells in the mesothelium, which is the external layer of the stomach, lungs and heart. That means there are three basic types of mesothelioma, one for each of these organs.
The most common organ to be affected is the lung – probably because the particles were breathed in and trapped in the lung. This type is called pleural mesothelioma and the symptoms that normally come with it are breathing difficulties, short breathing, swallowing problems, weight loss, and fever.
Mesothelioma that affects the abdomen or stomach is called peritoneal mesothelioma. Here the symptoms are somewhat different, including vomiting, poor appetite, constipation, swollen or painful belly, and weight loss.
The third type is the rarest. Pericardial mesothelioma, which affects the heart, has symptoms that include heart palpitations, difficultly breathing, and severe cough.
Prognosis is best if the disease is caught early, as with most types of cancer. That’s why it’s so important to talk to your physician about your medical history and prior exposure to asbestos. But mesothelioma in general has a poor success rate, especially when caught later.
Treatments for this disease range from surgery to radiation therapy and chemotherapy. To help relieve the suffering associated with the disease, there are several palliative therapy treatments available.
As with other cancers, there are many mesothelioma treatment clinical trials currently underway around the globe. Doctors and scientists are constantly searching for new ways to treat even such devastating cancers as this one.
The good news is that mesothelioma is easily preventable. Just make sure to stay far away from asbestos, or from people who work with asbestos in unsafe circumstances. Asbestos itself is not dangerous until it is broken up, which causes its particles to be released into the air.
Since it used to be very common in the construction industry it’s not uncommon to find it in buildings, especially in roofs or walls. If you think you have asbestos in your home, don’t try to fix the problem on your own. Call in a professional, since removing and getting rid of the material yourself is against the law. Getting help with this matter may cost a bit more than doing it yourself, but it’s well worth it.