Malignant mesothelioma is a rare type of cancer that occurs in the mesothelium, a thin layer of tissue that covers most of your internal organs. The primary cause and risk factor of mesothelioma are exposure to asbestos.
Mesothelioma cancer is aggressive and deadly. There is no known cure and the available treatments, like chemotherapy and surgery, will only increase one’s life expectancy and improve the general mesothelioma prognosis.
Mesothelioma symptoms are often similar to other common ailments, thus making a correct diagnosis of mesothelioma is pretty difficult for doctors.
This cancer is most common for men in over 60 years old. However, some cases of mesothelioma in women and children are occurred as well. Mesothelioma in women and children are mainly connected to secondary exposure to asbestos. It is common for men to take along asbestos on their clothing or bodies and then bring it back home.
What is Malignant Mesothelioma Symptoms?
Mesothelioma cancer is difficult to diagnose because the symptoms are similar to other common ailments and mostly do not present until it has progressed to later stages. The main risk of mesothelioma cancer is exposure to asbestos. However, it needs 20 to 50 years for mesothelioma cancer to develop.
Hence, early symptoms such as a cough, fatigue, fever, muscle weakness, and night sweats are usually dismissed, ignored, or misdiagnosed. Meanwhile, symptomatic patients may be undiagnosed for three to six months of symptoms outbreak.
Type of Malignant Mesothelioma
The types of mesothelioma are based on the part of the mesothelium that is affected.
• Pleural Mesothelioma
The most common form of mesothelioma that affects pleura (the tissue that surrounds the lungs).
• Peritoneal Mesothelioma
The rare type of mesothelioma cancer that affects tissue in the abdomen, around the testicles, and around the heart.
• Pericardial Mesothelioma
A type of mesothelioma that affects tissue in the cardiac cavity.
Pleural Mesothelioma Symptoms
The symptoms of pleural mesothelioma are mostly caused by the tumors that form within pleura layers. When a person inhales asbestos fibers, the fibers will infiltrate through bronchi or trachea and finally penetrate the pleural lining. Then, this asbestos will cause uncontrolled cell growth by damaging the DNA of mesothelial cells, which causes signs and symptoms below.
• Side chest or lower back pain (pain under the rib cage)
• A painful and persistent cough
• Fever and shortness of breath
• Has difficulty to swallow
• Unusual lumps of tissue on your chest
• Unexplained fatigue and weight loss
• Muscle weakness
• The decreasing of sensory capability
• Coughing up blood or hemoptysis
• Arm and facial swelling
Peritoneal Mesothelioma Symptoms
Originates in the abdomen, peritoneal mesothelioma is also a lack of distinct symptoms and also difficult to diagnose. Similar to pleural mesothelioma, asbestos fibers is also inhaled and settled in the stomach.
Peritoneal mesothelioma causes signs and symptoms are:
• Pain in the abdomen
• Abdominal swelling
• Weight loss
• Peritoneal effusion (fluid around the heart)
• Lumps of tissue in your abdomen
Pericardial Mesothelioma Symptoms
Pericardial mesothelioma cancer affects tissue that surrounds the heart. It shows up insidiously and often looks like medical conditions such as inflammation of pericardium or constrictive pericarditis, and pericardial effusion. All of these conditions can give pressure around the heart.
The cause signs and symptoms of this type of mesothelioma are:
• Breathing difficulty
• Chest pains
• Paradoxical pulse
• Night sweats
• Weight loss
• Generalized weakness
Testicular Mesothelioma Symptoms
This is the rarest type of mesothelioma and only occurs less than 5% of all mesothelioma cases. The symptoms are mostly nonspecific; except for a consistent sign which is a tumor or mass located in the testes. The tumor is often discovered during a surgical procedure.
Metastatic Mesothelioma Symptoms
When cancer has developed to later stages, the cancerous cells of mesothelioma may spread to other organs through lymph nodes and blood. However, the symptoms of metastasis depend on the source of cancer and where it spreads. It can spread to the bones, brain, and adrenal glands. These fatal cases are extremely rare, and the other common symptoms are stage-related such as nerve issues, bone pain, and hemoptysis.
Due to the characteristically long latency period, it is extremely difficult to identify mesothelioma’s warning signs early. It may not present until cancer has developed to its later stages. When the symptoms arise, they are always misattributed to another ailment since the symptoms are often nonspecific.
Usually, pleural mesothelioma’s early stage is misdiagnosed as pneumonia or influenza. And peritoneal mesothelioma is mostly misdiagnosed as Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and hernia.
The primary risk factor of mesothelioma is exposure to asbestos. Thus, if anyone has been exposed to asbestos fibers and shows any of the above signs and symptoms, please seek an immediate medical attention. Though you may receive a positive diagnosis, you should visit a doctor specializing in the treatment of thoracic oncology and mesothelioma for further examination.