Mesothelioma is a cancer that attacks the mesothelial tissue. Most people who are diagnosed with this serious illness got it from being exposed to asbestos at some point in their lives. Once asbestos gets inhaled, it imbeds itself in the person’s lungs where it then tends to remain, causing cancer. Every year in the U.S. somewhere around 3,000 people will be given the bad news that they have mesothelioma. Unfortunately, it’s a difficult form of cancer to diagnose, meaning there could be thousands more with it out there.
Despite the fact that thousands of people will be diagnosed with it every year, mesothelioma is still considered a relatively rare form of cancer. This means that many doctors may not be familiar with all of its symptoms, which can cause a misdiagnosis. For this same reason, many who suffer from the disease might blame the early warning signs on something else instead of immediately seeking medical attention.
It’s also not as though you simply inhale asbestos and then end up with the disease shortly thereafter. Most people don’t develop this cancer until they’re in their 70s. For this reason, they often misattribute their symptoms to old age. Doctors may even do the same.
Of course, the average life expectancy in America is just over 78 years, meaning many people with mesothelioma may die long before a diagnosis was ever made and perhaps not even from the cancer. Its long latency no doubt plays a role in how “rare” this cancer seems, simply because we never realize how many people truly have it.
Failure of Imaging Tests
Although human error may always be a challenge, you’d think technology would be able to pick up the slack. While our resources are certainly improving, in the past, imaging technology has not done a very good job of showing mesothelioma when it’s developed in the abdomen and chest.
As we’ve touched on, mesothelioma comes with a number of symptoms that could just as easily be attributed to something else. For example, though it’s found in the lungs, this type of cancer can cause severe pain in the abdomen. Unfortunately, to many suffers, this may also feel like discomfort caused by gas. When provided a description of the sensation, many medical professionals will make the same diagnosis.
One of the most common symptoms of mesothelioma is shortness of breath. It’s also often one of the first ones someone will experience. It occurs because of the scarring asbestos causes in the lining of a sufferer’s lungs. They become more rigid and no longer expand and contract as they’re supposed to. Shortness of breath can also be a symptom of countless other diseases though and, again, may seem perfectly natural for those who are getting up in years. Viral infections, asthma, and smoking all carry similar symptoms, just to name a few.
Ignorance Regarding Asbestos
Most people nowadays understand that asbestos is not a good material to be around and is, basically, illegal for companies to now use. However, most people who develop mesothelioma are ignorant of the fact that they had ever inhaled asbestos in the first place. Those who do know they were may only realize because of class-action lawsuits against companies they used to work for (asbestos exposure is often due to someone’s occupation in an industrial or construction field).
List of Symptoms
While science is making huge strides in helping us diagnose mesothelioma, consider the following common symptoms:
- Chest Pain
- Dry Cough
- Weight Loss
- Shortness of Breath
- Respiratory Complications
If you experience any of these symptoms, much less a combination of them, you may want to see a doctor. Of course, if you believe you were ever exposed to asbestos, don’t wait a minute to seek medical attention.