Asbestos, a fire-proof material that used to be commonly used, is a cause of mesothelioma. This rare type of lung cancer is difficult to diagnose as the symptoms coincide with symptoms for many other conditions. Mesothelioma usually lies dormant in a body’s system for about 20 to 40 years after exposure to asbestos.
Benign mesothelioma is a non-cancerous tumor of the pleura (lining of the lung and chest cavity). Men are more likely then women to be affected by the localized malignant tumor caused by mesothelioma. The tumor may grow to a large size and compress the lung, which then causes the following symptoms: chronic cough, shortness of breath, chest pain, weight loss and cachexia, abdominal swelling and pain due to ascites (a buildup of fluid in the abdominal cavity).
Other symptoms of peritoneal mesothelioma may include anemia, blood clotting abnormalities, fever, and bowel obstruction. Symptoms such as trouble swallowing, pain, or swelling of the neck and face can be indications that the cancer has spread beyond the mesotheliom to other parts of the body. Some people experience these symptoms and they may be caused by a less severe condtion, but they are also indications of mesothelioma.
Approximately half of mesothelioma patients are asymptomatic (show no symptoms of disease). An indication of exposure to asbestos and the presence of mesothelioma that can be found by a health care provider is the physically clubbed appearance of the fingers of the patient.The health care professional may run tests that identify mesothelioma. These tests include CT scan of the chest, chest x-ray, and/or an open lung biopsy.
There is no universally accepted protocol for screening people who have been exposed to asbestos. However some research indicates that serum osteopontin levels might be useful in screening asbestos-exposed people for mesothelioma. The level of soluble mesothelin-related protein is elevated in the serum of about 75% of patients at diagnosis, and it has been suggested that assessing soluble mesothelin-related protein levels may be useful for screening.
Surgery is usually generally necessary for a solitary tumor (if found); however, according to current statistics, the outcome of the surgery is expected to be good with prompt treatment. One of the most common complications though is pleural effusion (fluid escaping into the membranes around the lungs), which can be very serious.
People involved in jobs involving construction or other professions that may involve exposure to asbestos are who usually develop mesothelioma. Also, it is possible for people who are exposed to asbestos dust and fiber in more indirect ways, such as washing the clothes of someone who worked with asbestos are at risk of contacting the disease.