What would you think of a cough that doesn’t get better? Or an increasing shortness of breath? Or fatigue? There are all kinds of illnesses and diseases that can cause these symptoms, many of which are often harmless. However, they can also be signs of a deadly cancer called mesothelioma.
Mesothelioma is a rare form of cancer that causes fluid to build up in the chest, in the abdomen or around the heart. And it is notoriously difficult to diagnose. The disease often advances for years before symptoms appear, and then those symptoms may confuse doctors. This is especially true because it often shows up in aging people already prone to similar symptoms.
When could your symptoms be signs of mesothelioma?
Mesothelioma develops as the result of exposure to asbestos. Most often, people suffer from workplace exposure. They may inhale asbestos fibers in the air or catch them on their clothes. You can even breathe in asbestos fibers while washing clothes. The fibers are so small that millions of them can fit into the cap of a writing pen.
If you recognize any of the cancer’s symptoms, it’s important to let your doctors know you had exposure to asbestos. Otherwise, they’ll likely suspect a different cause. According to the American Cancer Society, the most common symptoms of mesothelioma include:
•· Coughing and a shortness of breath
•· Swelling in the face, arms or abdomen
•· Aches in the chest, abdomen or lower back
•· Sudden weight loss
•· Fevers and night sweats
•· Loss of appetite
Mesothelioma is usually lethal, especially when doctors don’t treat it until the later stages. Talking about your exposure to asbestos may help point them in the right direction, however, and that’s critical. Most tests won’t find the disease. Imaging tests such as x-rays and MRIs might show that something’s wrong, but you cannot get a solid diagnosis without a biopsy.
Who might have been exposed?
The United States government has known about the dangers of asbestos for decades. The EPA began regulating it in the 1970s and banned many uses in 1989. They tightened their controls again in April 2019, but they have not yet fully banned the material. As a result, people continue to suffer from asbestos exposure.
In the Chattanooga area, workers from many different companies have suffered asbestos exposure from its manufacturing or use. They may have also unknowingly exposed their families by carrying asbestos fibers home on their clothes or body.
Catching the disease early increases your chance of survival
Mesothelioma is often fatal, but your chances of survival improve if you catch it early. If you or someone you love suffers from the cancer’s symptoms, make sure your doctors know about any exposure to asbestos. That may cut down on the time it takes them to make a good diagnosis, and that can improve your odds.