Mesothelioma is a rare yet serious form of cancer that can be difficult to treat and cause serious medical complications if left undetected. Like most conditions, early detection is key to increasing survival rates and improving the quality of your life.
This post explores mesothelioma and the importance of early detection. We will look at what symptoms to watch out for, how to get tested and the treatment options available.
Let’s dive in!
What Is Mesothelioma?
Mesothelioma is an aggressive and deadly form of cancer that affects the thin layer of tissue that covers most of your internal organs (known as the mesothelium). The vast majority of cases are caused by exposure to asbestos, a heat-resistant fiber used in insulation, flooring, shingles, pipe fittings, brakes, and many other construction materials.
Asbestos fibers can become lodged in the lining of the lungs or other tissues, causing inflammation and eventually leading to cancer. People who have been exposed to asbestos are at a higher risk for developing mesothelioma.
The risk is greatest for those who have worked in jobs where they were exposed to asbestos dust, such as construction workers, shipyard workers, insulation installers, and boilermakers. In addition, people who lived or worked close to asbestos-containing materials are also at risk.
There’s no known cure for mesothelioma but early detection and treatment can improve the chances of survival. What’s more, there are typically no symptoms in the early stages of the disease, so regular screenings are essential for those who have been exposed to asbestos.
Signs And Symptoms Of Mesothelioma
Symptoms of mesothelioma can take decades to develop after exposure to asbestos and may not appear until the cancer is in its advanced stages. This is why it’s crucial to understand the potential signs and symptoms so you can catch it early and get prompt treatment.
Here’s a guide that explains the four stages of mesothelioma and the signs to watch out for during each. Of course, the most common symptom of mesothelioma is a persistent cough, which may be accompanied by shortness of breath, chest pain, and fatigue.
Others include sudden weight loss, difficulty swallowing, fever, loss of appetite, vomiting, and anemia. If you experience any of these after an asbestos exposure, see a doctor as soon as possible for a diagnosis.
How Is Mesothelioma Diagnosed?
Mesothelioma is most often diagnosed through a combination of imaging tests and biopsies. The most common ones are imaging tests such as x-rays, CT, MRI, and PET scans.
These tests can help show the location and size of any tumors and also reveal abnormalities in the lungs that suggest mesothelioma. But note that they are not always accurate and a biopsy is often needed to confirm the diagnosis.
A biopsy involves removing a small sample of tissue from the affected area to be examined under a microscope. There are several types of biopsies that can be performed, but the most common is a thoracoscopy. It involves making a small incision in the chest and inserting a thin, lighted tube with a camera attached (thoracoscope) to view and remove tissue samples.
Other types of biopsies include needle biopsies and open surgery. Full surgery is usually reserved for cases where other methods have not been successful in obtaining tissue samples.
Treatment Options For Mesothelioma
There are several treatment options available for mesothelioma and the choice depends on the stage of the disease. For early-stage mesothelioma, surgery is often recommended. This may be followed by radiation therapy or chemotherapy, or a combination of both.
For more advanced stages of the disease, radiation therapy and chemotherapy are often used in combination to try and slow the progression of the disease. There are also a number of clinical trials underway testing new treatments for mesothelioma.
The importance Of Early Detection
One of the most important success factors in fighting mesothelioma is early detection. The earlier you detect the condition, the higher the chance of successful treatment.
Unfortunately, the disease is difficult to diagnose early because it often does not cause any symptoms until it has progressed to advanced stages. Besides, when symptoms occur, they can be confusing given how similar they are to those of other respiratory conditions such as pneumonia or a lung infection.
The key to early detection is therefore understanding your own risk level. If you’ve been exposed to asbestos, inform your doctor so that they can keep an eye out for any potential signs of mesothelioma.
As with most diseases, early detection of mesothelioma can make a huge difference in survival rates. Knowing the warning signs, getting regular checkups and medical exams, understanding your risks and speaking to your doctor are all steps that can be taken to help ensure that mesothelioma is detected early.
While there is no cure for mesothelioma yet, finding it early gives you more time to explore treatment options that may extend your life.