Mesothelioma symptoms can appear at any time up to 50 years after the exposure to asbestos. This makes it a difficult disease to diagnose. Screening is sometimes done, and can sometimes be effective to some degree although there are no standard accepted screening methods yet.
Mesothelioma is a relatively rare form of cancer, found in only about 1 person per million compared to a lung cancer incidence of about 1000 per million people exposed to smoking. A combination of asbestos exposure and smoking can increase a person’s likelihood of getting the mesothelioma but smoking on its own has not been show to cause the disease.
The symptoms of this disease might include such things as coughing, swelling and pain of the abdomen, blood in the fluid coughed up, jaundice, low blood sugar level, bowel obstruction, general pain, difficulty swallowing, shortness of breath, pain in the chest, weight loss, blood clotting problems, anemia, fever, and swelling of the neck or face. Different stages of this disease can cause different symptoms. Also there are different symptoms typical for different sub-types of the disease, such as pleural mesothelioma and the much less common peritoneal mesothelioma.
Diagnosis of this disease is often very difficult because the same symptoms can easily be a result of much less serious medical conditions. Asbestos exposure suggests that the disease might be possible, and chest X-ray and lung function tests can help to confirm a diagnosis. Further confirmation can be made by performing a biopsy of effected tissue, where the sample is inspected in detail by a pathologist using a microscope. Sometimes the fluid from the chest cavity is also examined in order to support the diagnosis.
When diagnosed, mesothelioma can be treated by surgery, radiation therapy and chemotherapy, often in a combination. Large legal settlements are often obtained by people with this disease. It is important to remember that what might appear to be a mesothelioma symptom is much more commonly an indication of a much less dangerous medical problem.
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