Mesothelioma: A Difficult Disease to Diagnosis

No one likes to think about deadly diseases. There’s a certain feeling of powerlessness that comes with knowing that there’s nothing we can do about such a fatal affliction. However, early diagnosis can often give patients a much better chance against diseases before they start building momentum, so to speak. This is one of the reasons mesothelioma is such a frustrating disease to contend with. Not only is it incredibly deadly, but it’s also very difficult to diagnose.

Extended Latency

One of the main reasons mesothelioma is so difficult to diagnose is that its symptoms are so far removed from the source that caused them. Mesothelioma is caused by inhaling asbestos, which is why industrial workers from the ‘70s are so often the victims.

However, it can take several decades before the inhaled asbestos becomes cancerous and longer still before symptoms occur that will draw attention to the problem.

Non-Unique Symptoms

Making matters much worse is the fact that the symptoms of mesothelioma are rarely unique to this deadly disease. In fact, a lot of times, the symptoms are shared with fairly benign issues.

For example, peritoneal mesothelioma involves pain in the abdomen. However, this type of discomfort is often very similar to the type you’d feel from being gassy. A doctor who doesn’t keep exploring the issue may simply prescribe a patient medicine or some other solution for relieving the gas, never knowing that cancer is actually taking over.

The other major kind of mesothelioma, pleural mesothelioma, affects the lungs in such a way that they become rigid and stop contracting and expanding normally. As a result, the patient will develop a cough and certain difficulties breathing. Again, this could easily be treated as the common cold, pneumonia or COPD.

Other examples of symptoms that are similar to other afflictions include:

  • Fever
  • Difficulty Swallowing
  • Back Pain
  • Anemia
  • Fatigue
  • Shortness of Breath
  • Swelling in the Arms, Face or Feet
  • Unexplained Weight Loss
  • Hoarseness
  • Abnormal Blood-Clotting
  • Nausea
  • Bowel Obstruction

Rarity of the Disease

Although thousands die from mesothelioma every year, it is still considered a very rare disease. This is yet another factor working against those who have it. First of all, most doctors simply aren’t familiar enough with the disease to begin with so they don’t know what exactly to look for.

However, even doctors who have a firm understanding of mesothelioma aren’t going to be on the lookout for the disease. This is especially true of if a doctor isn’t familiar with their patient’s medical history (perhaps it’s their first meeting). With so many other diseases that share the above symptoms and are far more common, it makes more sense to begin with them.

Need for a Biopsy

Even if a doctor is familiar enough with mesothelioma to know what to look for and is able to recognize the above symptoms as signs of the disease, a diagnosis cannot be done without an actual biopsy being carried out first. Biopsies are done by removing cells from the area of concern and looking at them through a microscope.

Sadly, this isn’t always successful because mesothelioma can look like other forms of cancer even when a microscope is used. Often, a specialist is needed to look at the removed cells to identify if its mesothelioma or not.

If you’ve ever worked around asbestos, it’s important you visit a doctor today and tell them you want to be checked for mesothelioma as soon as possible. By being upfront about this part of your medical history, you spend a much better chance of catching it before symptoms begin showing up.

Sources:

http://www.mesotheliomaguide.com/community/symptoms-make-diagnosing-mesothelioma-difficult/

http://www.cancerresearchuk.org/cancer-info/cancerstats/keyfacts/mesothelioma/mesothelioma

By | 2014-12-01T07:14:48+00:00 November 28th, 2014|Mesothelioma|Comments Off on Mesothelioma: A Difficult Disease to Diagnosis