Mesothelioma is still a relevantly new cancer because the leading cause, asbestos, often causes no symptoms until years down the road. For this reason, many people who worked with asbestos 50 years ago are only now getting sick. If you believe you or someone you love is suffering from mesothelioma, check out everything you need to know about this rare cancer.
What Is Mesothelioma?
Mesothelioma is a specific and rare form of cancer that affects the cells in the chest and abdomen. In a sense, there are three types of mesothelioma: epithelial, sarcomatoid, and non-malignant mesothelioma. Some patients may only have one type of cancer cells, but others have both epithelial and sarcomatoid.
Sarcomatoid mesothelioma is rare, accounting for only about 15 percent of mesothelioma cases. Unfortunately, it is also harder to treat and has a poor prognosis when compared to epithelial mesothelioma.
If you have non-malignant cells, the doctor can easily remove them with surgery.
What Causes Mesothelioma?
While uncommon, anyone can develop mesothelioma, but you are more likely to be diagnosed with this terrible cancer if you have been exposed to asbestos. Asbestos was a commonly used insulation in many buildings, homes, and military structures. As a result, many former military members and retired blue-collar workers develop mesothelioma.
The problem with asbestos is the fibers are extremely fine, so if the material is disturbed, you can easily inhale them. These fibers get trapped in your lungs or the lining of your stomach. Overtime, these fibers cause enough damage to allow cancer cells to develop. Unfortunately, it can take 20 to 50 years before exposure begins affecting your health.
What Are the Symptoms of Mesothelioma?
When you do start to develop symptoms, it may because the disease has started to spread or it advanced past stages one and two. Symptoms of mesothelioma in the lungs may include a dry cough or wheezing along with pain in the chest or stomach.
Many people also experience shortness of breath because of fluid around the lungs. Other symptoms include respiratory complications, fever, night sweats, fatigue, and muscle weakness.
If your mesothelioma has attacked your abdomen, you may experience different symptoms, such as weight loss, bloating, hernias, loss of appetite, feeling full, fluid buildup in the stomach, and bowel obstruction. Rarer forms of mesothelioma may attack the pericardium or testicles, leading to pain or swelling in the chest or testicles.
Are There Treatments Available?
Mesothelioma is often an aggressive form of cancer, but it is still treated the way any cancer is treated. Your doctor may suggest surgery to remove most of the affected cells. However, you may also need radiation and chemotherapy treatment to kill off the remaining cancer cells. This type of treatment comes with its own negative side effects, such as nausea and fatigue.
Chemotherapy has been shown to extend survival rates of mesothelioma sufferers. When performed in conjunction with surgery, radiation therapy can reduce the risk of cancer cells returning. When performed without surgery, it can improve survival rates.
Mesothelioma affects many older Americans, especially those who served in the military while asbestos was being used. It's rare but can cause major symptoms and lead to death. There are treatments available, but as with any form of cancer, there is no cure. Therefore, even if your mesothelioma goes into remission, it may return years later.
If you would like to know more about mesothelioma, or if you want to see what rights you have now that you have this form of cancer, contact us at the Veterans Asbestos Alliance today. We have experience helping those who were affected by asbestos in the military.