Mesothelioma Symptoms: What You Need to Be on Lookout For?
Were you diagnosed with pericardial, pleural, peritoneal, or testicular mesothelioma? Do you have a history of asbestos exposure or are experiencing the symptoms of pleural mesothelioma, like shortness of breath?
At Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers, LLC, our personal injury attorneys represent patients with early or late-stage mesothelioma to ensure they are compensated for their damages. Contact our law office at (888) 424-5757 (toll-free phone number) to use the contact form today to schedule a free consultation.
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According to the American Cancer Society, malignant mesothelioma is a deadly cancer beginning in the mesothelial cells of body areas covering the outer surface of internal organs (mesothelium). Generally, the mesothelium protects internal organs through special lubricating fluids allowing the organs and tissues to slide against one another.
The lubricating fluid provides easy movement of the expanding and contracting lungs inside the chest wall when breathing. The mesothelium is referred to by different names based on its location in the body, including:
- Pleura – pleura mesothelium covers the lungs and surrounding area in the chest
- Peritoneum – many organs in the abdominal area contain peritoneum cells
- Pericardium – pericardium mesothelium covers the heart and surrounding area in the chest
- Tunica vaginalis – These mesothelium cells line the testicles
Mesothelioma is a type of malignant cancer that usually affects the inner lining of the lungs and chest. It mainly affects the respiratory system and, in some cases, may also affect other internal organs and lining around them.
Doctors can diagnose mesothelial tumors during the initial diagnosis in any linings listed above (pleura, peritoneum, pericardium, and tunica vaginalis. Typically, medical professionals will shorten malignant mesothelioma, referring to the condition as 'mesothelioma.'
Statistically, approximately 75% of all asbestos-related cancer cases involve malignant pleural mesothelioma in the chest. Patients with mesothelioma may suffer from respiratory symptoms such as shortness of breath, cough, and chest pain, requiring mesothelioma treatment.
Some clinical trials are available. In addition, professional medical advice sometimes recommends using a PleurX catheter that drains fluid buildup at home every few days using a small silicone catheter.
Other patients undergo radiation therapy that can shrink tumors and alleviate pain and pressure to treat nearly every type of mesothelioma.
Epithelioid, Sarcomatoid, and Biphasic (Mixed)
Medical science groups malignant mesotheliomas in three primary types based on how the cells appear during a biopsy assessment. These three types include:
- Epithelioid – Approximately 50% of all malignant mesothelioma cases involve epithelioid areas. Fortunately, this type of malignant pleural mesothelioma has the best prognosis (survival rate) than all other types.
- Sarcomatoid – About 10% to 20% of all diagnosed cases involve sarcomatoid (fibers) cells
- Biphasic (mixed) – Doctors typically referred to mixed mesothelioma (biphasic) as cancer involving epithelioid and sarcomatoid areas, accounting for the remaining 20% to 30% of all cases.
What Causes Peritoneal and Pleural Mesothelioma?
Asbestos exposure remains the primary cause of mesothelioma in more than 80% of diagnosed cases. This form of cancer predominantly affects factory workers, miners, and other tradespeople who work with asbestos regularly.
However, there have also been cases where exposure to naturally occurring asbestos has led to an increased number of cancer cases in populations such as the communities living near asbestos ore, mining centers, etc.
Erionite, a mineral with properties quite like asbestos, is also known to cause mesothelioma and has been recognized as a mesothelioma-causing agent by the medical fraternity worldwide.
Typically, workers first experience pleural or peritoneal mesothelioma symptoms with chest pain and shortness of breath after years of inhaling asbestos fibers.
Can a Chest X-Ray Show Pericardial, Pleural, and Peritoneal Mesothelioma?
According to the Mayo Clinic, a chest x-ray is quite helpful in visualizing the fluid buildup or masses within the lungs and can also help detect large tumors in the chest.
Still, physicians don't use chest x-ray for diagnosing mesothelial cancer. Physicians instead rely on advanced CT scans and tissue biopsies to diagnose mesothelioma.
The doctor also evaluates the patient's malignant mesothelioma symptoms, including chest pain, difficulty breathing, and other common symptoms associated with late-stage cancer.
Life Longevity After Being Diagnosed With Mesothelioma
Testicular, peritoneal, pericardial, and pleural mesothelioma are fatal diseases with very low survival rates. Typically, the mesothelioma survival rate is usually 4-18 months after diagnosis. Unfortunately, only 8% of people diagnosed with the disease are still alive after five years from the initial diagnosis.
Although, medical science has created opportunities to live longer after being diagnosed by providing medicines and other treatments that minimize malignant pleural mesothelioma symptoms. There have been cases where people lived up to 10 years or even longer after being diagnosed with the disease.
The improvements in technology, medication, and treatments have increased the survival rate of those diagnosed with mesothelioma. The current rate of 8-10% survival is higher than 10 or 20 years ago.
How Mesothelioma Starts
Mesothelioma starts in the lining of various internal organs, with most cases being reported around the lining of the lungs, usually caused by inhaling or ingesting asbestos fibers and dust repeatedly.
Almost 75% to 80% of mesothelioma cases begin in the lining that surrounds the lungs. This type of disease is called pleural mesothelioma and starts in the chest cavity.
Over time, the patient will likely develop shortness of breath, chest pain, blood clots, a fluid buildup (pleural effusions), persistent coughing up blood (hemoptysis), low-grade fever, fatigue, weight loss, and lower back pain.
Pleural effusion is a severe problem associated with pleural mesothelioma or excessive fluid buildup in the chest, limiting the lungs' ability to expand due to lining thickening. As a result, many individuals with pleural effusion suffer from shortness of breath.
Cancer in the Lining of the Abdomen
According to the American Society of Clinical Oncology, peritoneal mesothelioma starts in the stomach area, affecting the abdomen's lining. The symptoms associated with peritoneal mesothelioma are like pleural mesothelioma with fluid buildup, weight loss, pain, loss of appetite, and others.
In the early stage, peritoneal mesothelioma will result in fluid buildup in the ascites (abdominal cavity), thickening the abdominal area's lining (peritoneal thickening).
During the advanced stage of this type of cancer, the peritoneal and ascites will continue to thicken, placing more pressure on the abdominal cavity's internal organs.
People with mesothelioma may experience the following peritoneal mesothelioma symptoms, including:
- Unexplained weight loss
- Fluid buildup in the ascites (abdominal cavity)
- Seizures (rare)
- Abdominal pain
- Heart palpitations
- Loss of appetite
- Gas buildup
Doctors typically do not stage peritoneal mesothelioma other than specifying if it is localized or advanced.
Localized typically refers to a less aggressive cancer that remains in the same area after it was diagnosed. Advanced stage peritoneal mesothelioma refers to metastasize cancer spreading to other body parts.
Clinical trials involving advanced mesothelioma treatments are available to many patients. In addition, the mesothelioma treatment could improve their prognosis during the late stages of mesothelioma.
Treatment could minimize many of the symptoms of the disease, especially pleural effusions affecting the lining of the heart and lungs.
Mesothelioma Early Detection
Mesothelioma is almost impossible to detect early as it has a long latency period. The latency (between exposure to asbestos and developing common mesothelioma symptoms) is usually 20-50 years.
This long latency period typically allows the mesothelioma to develop to an aggressive stage before it is initially diagnosed. However, it's still possible to detect mesothelioma in its initial stage through regular checkups.
The doctor will likely monitor the common signs and symptoms of mesothelioma to identify any debilitating changes.
The First Signs of Asbestos Exposure
First signs of asbestos exposure can take years or even decades to develop, as it's not uncommon to feel these symptoms 20-40 years after asbestos exposure. However, certain occupations expose workers to asbestos, the leading cause of the disease out of all known risk factors.
The first signs of asbestos exposure that developed into all types of mesotheliomas include shortness of breath, dry, persistent cough, chest tightness, chest pain, loss of appetite, weight loss, clubbing of the fingers, nausea, and vomiting. However, early symptoms may vary between many patients.
The Early Signs and Symptoms of Pericardial Mesothelioma
Pericardial mesothelioma is extremely rare. Asbestos-related cancer affects the lining of the heart. Typically, people with the disease that affects their hearts will experience the early signs.
Some symptoms include chest pain, shortness of breath, wheezing, hoarseness, heart murmur, lung or shoulder problems, extreme tiredness or fatigue, persistent cough, clubbed (swollen) fingertips (only in more advanced cases).
However, it is exceptionally challenging for doctors to diagnose pericardial mesothelioma. Once the condition is diagnosed, the patient typically has a poor prognosis and dies within six months. A quick death affects approximately 50% to 60% of all pericardial patients.
Is Mesothelioma Always Fatal?
Contrary to popular perception, mesothelioma is not always fatal. However, the survival rates are usually in single digits as very few can survive beyond the initial years after the diagnosis. Thus, people think that the disease is always fatal.
Whether someone survives this form of cancer depends on many factors. Contributing factors include the stage of the disease when it is detected, available treatment options, if a patient goes into remission or not if the disease spreads to other body parts, etc.
Typical treatment includes chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and surgery. Often, the doctor will recommend surgical removal or shrinkage of cancerous tumors and tissues. In addition, the treatment can alleviate related symptoms.
Effective chemotherapy might shrink pleural mesothelioma tumors, reduce pressure on the lungs, improve coughing symptoms, and minimize difficulty swallowing.
Mesothelioma Causes Other Than Asbestos
Asbestos exposure remains the primary cause of asbestos-related cancer across the world. Although, research suggests that the disease can also be caused by other minerals such as erionite.
Erionite is a fibrous mineral that belongs to a group of minerals known as zeolites. Zeolites are chemically related to asbestos and have properties quite like asbestos on a molecular level.
Erionite exposure is the primary cause of the disease in the Cappadocia region in Anatolia, Turkey. A large portion of the local population has developed mesothelioma despite no asbestos exposure.
The Environmental Impact of Asbestos Exposure
Studies show that the Cappadocia region is abundant in erionite. As a result, most researchers believe erionite exposure caused mesothelioma among the Cappadocia's native population.
The local population was screened for genetic anomalies to rule out the genetic causes of the disease. However, studies prove that the local Cappadocian population does not have specific genes making them more susceptible to asbestos-related illness, thus leaving erionite as the only probable cause of the condition.
According to the American Cancer Society, some patients develop the disease independently without exposure to asbestos or erionite. In such cases, mesothelioma may advance for years without identifying any probable cause that may have caused the condition.
Doctors assume that the patient has been exposed to asbestos and doesn't remember the exposure or there are underlying genetic reasons for developing the condition.
Unfortunately, during the late or early stage, radiation therapy and other cancer treatments may be ineffective for treating mesothelioma's common symptoms, including fluid buildup and pleural effusions that develop in the lining of mesothelial cells.
Can Mesothelioma Be Cured If Diagnosed Early?
Unfortunately, mesothelioma cannot be cured at any stage as there is no cure for this complex disease anywhere in the world. Although, detecting the disease at Stage 1 can increase your chances of surviving for a more extended period.
Most Stage 1 patients of mesothelioma respond positively to treatment, and it's also possible to operate on a patient surgically at this stage which further improves the chances of survival.
According to estimates, 41-45% of Stage 1 mesothelioma patients survive the initial two years, and almost 18% survive the first five years. These rates are nearly double that of other mesothelioma patients who often become aware of the disease once it's in the second or third stage.
Does Mesothelioma Cause Back Pain?
Mesothelioma can cause chest pain or pain in the abdominal region, and sometimes a patient may feel that they have back pain.
Testing for Mesothelioma
Doctors use a wide variety of tests and techniques to test for asbestos-related cancer. Computerized tomography (CT scan) of the chest or abdominal region, along with magnetic resonance imaging or MRI, and tissue biopsy of the tissue that makes up the lining of the lungs are some of the tests that a doctor usually runs to check for mesothelioma.
Can Mesothelioma Spread to the Stomach?
Peritoneal mesothelioma is caused due to ingested asbestos, and it usually develops in the lining of the abdomen or stomach. However, even pleural mesothelioma can spread to the stomach in later stages of the disease.
Common Peritoneal Mesothelioma Symptoms
Symptoms of peritoneal mesothelioma differ from those of pleural mesothelioma. Usually, peritoneal mesothelioma includes the following symptoms:
- Abdominal swelling
- Abdominal pain
- Sudden weight loss
Can Asbestos Cause Stomach Problems?
Asbestos causes various stomach problems, including asbestosis and peritoneal mesothelioma. These conditions primarily affect the linings of the abdomen and stomach.
Constant and continuous ingestion of asbestos particles is the primary cause of peritoneal mesothelioma.
Can Peritoneal Mesothelioma Be Cured?
There is no known cure for peritoneal mesothelioma, although an early diagnosis can help significantly in prolonging patients' lives. Early detection means that treatment can begin immediately and can be used to slow the speed of mesothelioma.
Statistics suggest that almost 87% of Stage 1 patients survive the first five years. In addition, there are cases where patients with peritoneal mesothelioma have gone into remission and lived for 15 years after their initial diagnosis.
The Final Stages of Mesothelioma
The final stages of pleural mesothelioma involve chest pain, shortness of breath, lumps of tissue under the skin in the chest area, unexplained weight loss, and painful coughing. At the same time, the final stages of peritoneal mesothelioma include severe abdominal pain, abdominal swelling, weight loss, and nausea.
Do Patients Cough Up Blood With Mesothelioma?
Coughing up blood (hemoptysis) is a primary symptom of pleural mesothelioma. In addition to shortness of breath, chest pain, and other symptoms, coughing up sputum mixed with blood through forceful coughing usually indicates many of the common symptoms experienced by patients.
Often, hemoptysis originates in the bronchi, lungs, or trachea. For example, mesothelioma cancer usually begins when blood vessels rupture because of persistent coughing.
In severe cases, the mesothelioma patient may be diagnosed with massive hemoptysis, coughing up over 2.5 cups (600 mL) of blood mixed with sputum. Therefore, anyone coughing up blood should immediately be screened for mesothelioma.
Is Mesothelioma Challenging to Diagnose?
Mesothelioma is a unique disease due to its high latency period and is quite challenging to diagnose before its onset. There is no way to currently diagnose mesothelioma at Stage 1 (initial stage), especially if the patient is not displaying any pleural mesothelioma symptoms.
The high latency period that runs from 10-50 years makes it even more challenging to diagnose as it's not uncommon for people with asbestos to developing mesothelioma after 30, 40, or even 50 years of the initial exposure.
In many cases, pericardial mesothelioma symptoms are not revealed until the late stage. At that point, the patient experiences tightness or constriction of the heart muscles caused by tissue inflammation due to their advancing mesothelioma.
Common Symptoms of Mesothelioma
The earliest signs and symptoms of mesothelioma are nearly undetectable. It is typically only after the mesothelioma patient develops an aggressive cough, experiences shortness of breath, and chest pains during the late stage that the cancer is detected.
Many doctors misdiagnose difficulty breathing and other signs of mesothelioma with other conditions, especially during the early stage of pleural mesothelioma. Typically, the symptoms of pleural mesothelioma will initiate in the lining of the lungs, affecting the chest, lungs, and thoracic cavity.
Pericardial mesothelioma is highly challenging to diagnose. Many pericardial mesothelioma symptoms and signs mimic other conditions, including heart attack, angina, and conditions that create night sweats.
Testicular mesothelioma affects the lining of the testes (tunica vaginalis). Common testicular mesothelioma symptoms include hydrocele (swelling around the scrotum), epididymitis (inflammation of the epididymis), testicular pain, or a mass or lump in the scrotum.
Fortunately, testicular mesothelioma is extremely rare. Unfortunately, diagnosticians often misdiagnose the condition as a hernia due to specific symptoms that include abdominal pain.
Common symptoms of mesothelioma include:
- Abdominal pain
- Chest pain
- Coughing or wheezing
- Coughing up blood
- Fever and night sweats
- Fluid buildup
- Loss of Appetite
- Muscle weakness
- Painful coughing
- Unexplained weight loss
According to the Mayo Clinic, peritoneal mesothelioma symptoms include bloating and abdominal pain. In addition, the mesothelioma patient might also experience a swollen stomach, loss of appetite, constipation, night sweats, irritable bowel syndrome, bowel obstruction, swollen lymph nodes, and some pleural mesothelioma symptoms, including fluid buildup and difficulty breathing.
Hiring an Asbestos Injury Attorney to Resolve a Personal Injury Case
Are you showing signs of mesothelioma, or been diagnosed with the condition? Are you experiencing mesothelioma symptoms like difficulty breathing, irritable bowel syndrome, difficulty swallowing, bowel obstruction after a mesothelioma diagnosis?
The personal injury attorneys at Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers represent mesothelioma patients suffering illness years after asbestos exposure. Our legal team serves as a patient advocate to ensure they have access to the best professional medical advice, mesothelioma treatment, and palliative care to maximize the quality of their daily lives and can help you too.
Call our law office at (888) 424-5757 (toll-free phone call) or use the contact form to schedule a free consultation. Let us discuss the merits of your case, available clinical trials, and mesothelioma treatments available.
Our legal team accepts all personal injury cases and wrongful death lawsuits through contingency fee agreements. This arrangement ensures that our clients do not pay upfront fees until we resolve their case through negotiated settlements and jury verdicts.
Surviving family members who lost a loved one due to asbestos exposure can file a wrongful death lawsuit to be compensated for their loved one's preventable death. With our years of experience, we can ensure they receive compensation to pay for medical bills, hospitalization, nursing home care, lost wages, future lost earnings, pain, suffering, grief, and funeral & burial expenses.