Mesothelioma symptoms can take 30 or more years to become visible in the body, which makes diagnosing it very complicated and the disease hard to identify. Most cases of mesothelioma are the result of asbestos exposure, and symptoms normally do not arise until years after initial exposure. Exposure and unexplained health issues should immediately be addressed to a physician for possible early detection, treatment, and improvement. Several resources and support groups are available including the Applied Research Foundation to contact for information on mesothelioma specialists and getting answers important questions.
There are three types of mesothelioma, and the symptoms vary by case. Pleural mesothelioma is the most common form, and makes up 75% of mesothelioma cases in the United States. Its symptoms include shortness of breath, wheezing, hoarseness, frequent coughing, chest pain, weight loss, and fluid around the lungs. Peritoneal, or “abdominal” mesothelioma symptoms include masses in the abdomen, fluid buildup, weight loss, bowel obstruction, blood clots, fever, and anemia. Pericardial, or “heart” mesothelioma is the rarest form, and includes symptoms of chest pain, chest tightness, weight loss, and shortness of breath. Pericardial mesothelioma is also known to be the most painful form.
Diagnosing mesothelioma can be extremely complicated because symptoms can be similar to less serious conditions. Making a mesothelioma diagnosis includes collecting a complete medical and asbestos exposure history, in combination with a physical exam. X-Rays can detect thickening of the mesothelium, which is a common sign. CT scans and MRI’s can also be used to detect fluid buildup, which is drained in order to examine cells for malignancy. Once cells are determined malignant, a biopsy is ordered for confirmation. During the biopsy, tissue is removed from the tumor and examined under a microscope. Thoroscapy is a method used for collecting tissue for chest cancers, and Laproscopy is used for gathering tissue samples from the abdomen. Once diagnosed, a physician can aid patients in making decisions related to future treatment.