The earliest signs of mesothelioma are usually confused with those of respiratory diseases. This is why the condition remains untreated for most people until it is too late. The location of cancer will also determine the kind of symptoms and signs to expect. It takes a keen oncologist to probe further for mesothelioma.
Despite numerous reported mesothelioma cases, this remains one of the fatal forms of cancer that is almost untreatable. The signs and symptoms of mesothelioma could be very common which is why the patient may just take it for granted. Sometimes the symptoms could also be non-specific which often results in a very late diagnosis since they could be mistaken as a result of more common diseases. For instance, mesothelioma symptoms are frequently mistaken for signs of pneumonia.
More often than not the symptoms start manifesting from two to three months before mesothelioma is detected. And these symptoms may appear only after 30 to 50 years after exposure to asbestos.
The following are common early symptoms of mesothelioma. If you or your loved one is suffering from any of the following symptoms immediately check with your physician. These include:
- Blood in the sputum
- A cough or change in cough pattern
- Difficulty in swallowing
- Shortness of breath
- Pain in the chest or abdomen
- Weight loss
- Immune deficiency related illnesses such as colds
There are more symptoms associated with each type of mesothelioma cancer. The linings of the chest and lungs are called pleura. Pleural mesothelioma affects these regions of the body. Symptoms of pleural mesothelioma, which is the most commonly occurring type, is weight loss related to a shift in diet, extreme tiredness, difficulty in swallowing, raspy or hoarse voice, constant shortness of breath, cough that has been recurring for a long time, chest pains, back pains, extreme sweating and recurring fever. Pleural mesothelioma patients suffer from pleural effusion or a buildup of liquid in the pleural space or chest cavity.
Peritoneal Mesothelioma affects the stomach and the abdomen. Other affected organs are the bowel, liver, and spleen. Symptoms include pain on the belly area, abdominal swelling, recurring constipation or diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, breathing problems, chest pain, fever, foot swelling, anemia and even blood clotting abnormalities.
The rarest form of mesothelioma is pericardial mesothelioma. This type affects the heart and the cavity that surrounds the heart which is called the pericardium. It can cause some or all of the following symptoms: chest pain, shortness of breath, persistent coughing, dyspnea, and palpitations. Patients suffering from this kind of mesothelioma also suffer from pericardial effusion or a collection of fluid in the sac that surrounds the heart.
If the cancer cells have spread beyond the mesothelium to other parts of the body, symptoms like pain, trouble swallowing or swelling of the neck or face may be experienced by the patient.
Symptoms of Late-Stage Mesothelioma
Symptoms of late-stage mesothelioma would differ in both pattern and intensity. In the case of pleural mesothelioma, there could be recurrent hydro-pneumothorax or accumulation of fluid in the cavity of lungs that would not benefit from therapy. Generally, doctors would remove the fluid through the puncture. However, fluid would return after a few days. There would also be excessive fatigue, pleural effusion, and not only shortness of breath but also pain associated with breathing. Due to growth and spreading of tumors in the pulmonary cavity, it may put pressure on the food pipe, resulting in difficulties of swallowing. In some cases, there may be severe inflammation of the lungs and coughing up of blood.
Symptoms of late-stage mesothelioma of the peritoneal cavity would differ. A person may suffer from a buildup of fluid in the abdominal cavity, hernias, and abdominal distention. The enlarged abdominal tumor may cause a sudden loss of appetite and symptoms of intestinal obstruction.
Tumor of the pericardium is rare, but due to its location in the cavity of the heart, symptoms may be more due to malfunctioning of the heart like shortness of breath, severe pain in the chest, irregular heartbeats, heart murmur, and cough.
There is Always a Hope
One should not consider a diagnosis of the last or fourth stage as a death sentence; it is vital to understand that treatment is improving with each year. A large number of those diagnosed with the last stage can still hope to survive for two years. In fact, a small number of cases may survive even more than five years. Prognosis is usually better in the epithelioid cell type, at a younger age, and in the female gender. Finally, it is vital to understand that no two kinds of cancers are same, as there are minor differences between all the cases of an even very similar type of cancers, a difference in the form of mutation involved, and the difference in the genetic environment of each patient. Thus it is no surprise that even those diagnosed with the last stage of aggressive cancer may survive for long periods of time, against all the odds.
Thus whatever be the diagnosis, maintain a positive attitude, do exercise, eat a balanced diet, and consider the use of certain health supplements in agreement with the treating doctor.