Malignant mesothelioma is a rare and aggressive form of cancer that affects the mesothelium, or the lining around the body’s internal organs. It usually affects the lungs, but different forms of the disease can affect other organs such as the heart or the abdominal cavity. Symptoms of malignant mesothelioma appear after years of prolonged asbestos exposure. While treatment is possible for mesothelioma, there is no known cure; the disease is almost always fatal.
Causes of Mesothelioma
Mesothelioma is almost always caused by asbestos exposure. Asbestos is a fibrous mineral that was once used in the manufacturing of textiles, building insulation, hot water pipes and brake pads, among other things. The wide use of asbestos was due to its durability and resistance to heat and corrosion.
The problem with asbestos is due to its fibrous composition. When a material containing asbestos is disturbed, it sheds microscopic fibers that can be inhaled or ingested. These fibers are incredibly durable and remain in the body for several years, creating scar tissue and eventually cancer. Asbestos exposure was common among factory workers in the textile, shipbuilding and automotive industries. Workers’ families were also put at risk due to asbestos dust being tracked into the home on clothing.
According to Shrader & Associates, it can take decades of prolonged asbestos exposure before mesothelioma symptoms start to appear. In many cases, the cancer isn’t diagnosed until its later stages, making treatment difficult and sometimes impossible.
Symptoms of mesothelioma
The symptoms of malignant mesothelioma include fatigue, chest pain, shortness of breath, bowel obstruction and unintended weight loss. These symptoms are typically mild in the cancer’s earliest stages, which is why the disease often goes undiagnosed for years. It can take up to sixty years for the symptoms to become serious enough to be noticeable, and by then treatment is very difficult and the prognosis for the patient is grim.
Treatment Options for Mesothelioma Patients
Treatment for malignant mesothelioma can include surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy. Curative surgery is possible in the disease’s earliest stages, but since an early diagnosis is so rare most surgical procedures are palliative. Chemotherapy is a fairly standard treatment in which chemicals are used to kill malignant cells and shrink tumors. It is fairly effective in the disease’s early stages, but it comes with harsh side effects such as nausea, pain, fatigue and anemia. Radiation therapy is often used in conjunction with chemotherapy to kill cancer cells and prevent new tumors from developing.
For many mesothelioma patients, most of these treatments are intended to ease the symptoms of the cancer since a cure is usually impossible. According to Shrader and Associates, this is mainly attributed to the fact that mesothelioma usually isn’t diagnosed until its later stages.
Mesothelioma is a rare form of cancer that may only become more rare now that asbestos has been effectively banned for decades in the United States. However, asbestos stays within the body for years, so even those who were first exposed to the material years ago are still being diagnosed with mesothelioma.
If you are experiencing symptoms of mesothelioma, make an appointment with your doctor immediately. Treatment may be possible if you catch the cancer in its early stages.
This article was contributed on behalf of Shrader and Associates, your number one choice when looking for help with asbestos and mesothelioma. Check out their website at www.yourmesotheliomalawfirm.com.