Though uncommon, a diagnosis of mesothelioma is devastating. This cancer is lethal and caused by asbestos exposure. For more than ten decades, asbestos was used in various construction projects and buildings, because it made for a heat resistant and non-retardant material. This made asbestos the perfect material when used in the insulation and structure of buildings. Even though its safety was questioned for many years, asbestos was still used until the 1970’s, when public objection finally caused it to be halted from new construction and removed from existing structures. Despite this, asbestos is still in over 700,000 structures in the United States.
Mesothelioma is caused by the prolonged and/or repeated exposure to asbestos. Fibers from asbestos enter the body and become entrenched in the body, causing abnormal cell function, inflammation of tissue and eventually mesothelioma. This cancer is a slow-growing cancer that might take 20 to 40 years after original exposure to asbestos to present itself in an individual. If you have ever worked around asbestos and think you might have contracted mesothelioma, consult a physician immediately. He or she will be able to determine whether or not you have mesothelioma.
A diagnosis of mesothelioma can be especially difficult to manage when it is most important to catch. Regrettably, most physicians misdiagnose the symptoms of mesothelioma as being that of another illness. Make sure to share with your physician every symptom that you are experiencing, as it might be a sign of cancer. Some mesothelioma symptoms include shortness of breath, fatigue, chest pain, weight loss and blood in the sputum.
After assessing the symptoms and reviewing your medical history, the physician will run a battery of tests to verify whether you have mesothelioma or not. Some of these tests might include:
- Blood tests to verify the presence of malignant cells
- A biopsy of the tissue
- A chest X-ray to confirm the presence of a tumor and/or fluid in the lungs
- A CT scan or MRI to see if the cancer has metastasized
- Bronchoscopy which uses a camera that goes through the mouth or nose to look on the inside of the lungs and trachea
- Minimally invasive surgery
In order to receive a diagnosis of mesothelioma early, one must have regular check-ups with their oncologist. Those individuals at higher risks are Navy veterans, shipbuilders, mechanics, factory workers and various manufacturing workers. When mesothelioma is diagnosed early, treatment can be more successful and in rare cases can eliminate the disease altogether. Even though mesothelioma has a latency period of up to 40 years after initial exposure, it is imperative that you get regular check-ups from your oncologist even if you don’t have any symptoms.