Many people are just now discovering they have a very dangerous and rare form of cancer called Mesothelioma. An unfortunate aspect of this disease is that the symptoms do not generally show up until decades after exposure to the cancer causing agent. By the time symptoms appear and the disease is diagnosed, the prospects for survival are very poor.

Malignant Mesothelioma

Mesothelioma is a rare form of cancer that is caused by exposure to asbestos minerals. There are several types of natural minerals classified as Asbestos minerals. These minerals were used primarily for their qualities of resistance to heat and flame. They were used extensively in the mid-20th Century as resources for industrial and residential building and in the military. Typical places these asbestos products were used include brakes and clutches, tile, insulation, shingles and flooring.

People who discover they are afflicted with Mesothelioma may also find out that the cancer is malignant and life-threatening. Part of the reason for this is the long latency period between exposure and the onset of symptoms. In some cases, this was as long as 30 to 50 years. Some people were unaware that they had been exposed to asbestos, mostly because they did not use or come in contact with the product at work, but were exposed in a second hand nature. If a person worked with asbestos products, the fine fibers of the mineral would cling to clothing or hair and be brought home to infect others.

Millions of people were exposed to asbestos products between 1940 and 1978, but only a few have discovered their Mesothelioma cancer. Between the years 1999 – 2013, 37,000 persons died from this disease. It is expected that this is just the beginning of a huge problem in coming decades.

Symptoms of Mesothelioma

Typical symptoms of malignant Mesothelioma include pain, swelling or lumps, and weight loss. The pain is related to the tiny fibers that comprise the asbestos minerals. During handling of asbestos products or dispersal of those fibers into the air, people can inhale or ingest the fibers unknowingly.

When these very small asbestos fibers enter the body, either by inhalation or ingestion, those bits of asbestos become lodged into the linings of the organs. They will cause inflammation or scarring that later may develop into cancer. Another common sign of this disease is formation of lumps or tissue mass. These may appear under the skin on the chest, under the abdomen, or on a testicle.

There are several forms of Mesothelioma, with a variety of symptoms that affect the lining of different organs. The major forms are: Pleural (lungs), Peritoneal (abdomen), and Pericardial (heart). Types of symptoms are generally found in the mesothelial membrane related to the area affected.

  • Malignant Pleural Mesothelioma – About 70% of cases; mostly affecting the chest cavity and lungs. Symptoms include: chest pain under the rib cage, shortness of breath, painful coughing, lumps, and unexplained weight loss.
  • Malignant Peritoneal Mesothelioma – About 15 – 20% of cases; present in the lining of the abdominal cavity. Symptoms include: abdominal pain, abdominal swelling, lumps of tissue in the abdomen, and unexplained weight loss.
  • Malignant Pericardial Mesothelioma – The rarest form, less than 1% of cases; found in the lining of the heart. This primarily affects younger persons and has the poorest prognoses. Symptoms include: breathing difficulty and chest pain.
  • Other – Another area rarely affected is the lining of the testicles. Symptoms include: a swelling or mass on the testicle.

One of the biggest factors that results in such poor prognoses for recovery from malignant Mesothelioma is the length of time between exposure to asbestos materials and the development of symptoms. It could be 30 to 50 years time until this disease is discovered, and by then it could be too late to treat effectively.

When Symptoms Occur

Anytime someone discovers a strange lump or swelling on the body, it is important to figure out what is happening. Most people turn to their medical professionals for advice and treatment, which is always advisable to do. With Mesothelioma, taking action quickly is very important. The disease has been working inside the body for decades in most cases, and by the time it is discovered, cells may have dispersed to other organs as well as the original location.

Treatment of Malignant Mesothelioma

Symptoms of malignant Mesothelioma are often a surprise to the afflicted person. They may not be aware that they have ever been exposed to asbestos fibers in their past. In some cases, people became affected at home when a relative who did work with asbestos innocently brought home fibers on their clothing, which then dispersed into the air at home.

Many people who have Mesothelioma did not realize that the materials they worked with on the job contained asbestos products and were hazardous. Asbestos was first considered a good thing, excellent for protection against heat and fire. It was used liberally throughout the world, in insulation products, building materials and vehicles.

Treatment of malignant Mesothelioma begins when a person first notices they have pain, swelling, lumps or difficulty breathing. Next, there is a trip to their physician to have the symptoms analyzed. The doctor has several options for treatment. If Mesothelioma is suspected, there may be a referral to a specialist who will conduct diagnostic testing. If there is any history of work or exposure to asbestos products, working with a Mesothelioma specialist is important, because the symptoms could mimic other diseases.

Typical diagnostic tests for Mesothelioma include:

  • Imaging Scans – X-Ray, CT scan, MRI, PET scan
  • Blood Tests – biomarkers may be present in the bloodstream
  • Biopsies – tissue samples are studied

Since treatment costs for Mesothelioma are very significant, check into all possible financial aid options. There are some Mesothelioma trust funds and grants that can help offset treatment and travel costs.

Survival rates for people with malignant Mesothelioma are limited. The National Cancer Institute has estimated that the 5-year survival rate for Mesothelioma is only between 5% and 10%. If the cancerous tissues can be removed, it will naturally increase the survival outlook. Median survival is estimated to be from 21 months to 12 months, depending on the stage of the disease when discovered. Other factors affect survival rates, such as the heath or age of the patient and how early the disease is discovered.

Symptoms of malignant Mesothelioma are the first alert for anyone who has ever been exposed to or worked with asbestos products. Getting help at the first sign of pain or discomfort is essential; your physician can conduct testing and provide referrals to specialists who can pinpoint what is causing those symptoms. Early treatment can offer positive results even for this deadly disease.