Malignant Mesothelioma is a rare type of cancer that affects the lining of the lungs and chest cavity. In some cases, it may also affect the abdomen wall. The prognosis is poor, and 2,500 people in this country will die this year from this disease. In this article, we will examine malignant mesothelioma symptoms and treatment.
What Is Malignant Mesothelioma?
Mesothelioma is found in two types, pleural and peritoneal. This type of cancer covers the mesothelial cells, which act as a casing for the internal organs. Typically, this condition is found in older men, but not always. The exposure to asbestos causes the condition.
In Pleural mesothelioma, cancer attacks the membranes that cover the lungs. Many people confuse this with lung cancer, but it’s a separate disease. Pleural is the most usual form of malignant mesothelioma. It accounts for about 90 percent of all cases diagnosed with mesothelioma.
Peritoneal mesothelioma is rare, found in only 10 percent of diagnosed cases. It develops in the lining of the abdomen. Though these are the most common regions to see this cancer, it can also start at the heart or the reproductive organs. Thankfully, it is rare to develop this tumor in more than one place.
Quickcare or ER?
Malignant mesothelioma symptoms develop over time. Depending on the location of the cancer, the symptoms may also vary. When the condition affects the lungs, the symptoms are:
- Shortness of Breath.
- Chest Pain that Radiates to the Shoulders.
- Weight Loss.
- Loss of Appetite.
- An Unusual and Persistent Cough.
- Heavy Night Sweats.
When the condition affects the abdomen, the malignant mesothelioma symptoms are:
- Pain and Swelling in the Abdomen.
- Loss of Appetite.
- Nausea and Vomiting.
- Urinary Issues.
- Bowel Problems.
- General Malaise.
An urgent care facility cannot do much with this severe condition. An emergency room evaluation is necessary. If you have not been diagnosed, some do not have the equipment to screen for such cancers. You would need to see a family doctor and be referred to an oncologist.
Diagnosing Malignant Melanoma
The malignant mesothelioma symptoms and exposure to asbestos give reason to have further testing.
What Does Your Doctor Need to Know?
When you initially seek help for your condition, your physician will need to rule out other conditions that can cause similar symptoms. If you have worked on a construction site, in an old building or anywhere where it was possible to have had an asbestos exposure, then this is a key part of the puzzle. Also, the doctor will need to know if any other workers had issues with this cancer or asbestos related diseases.
What Is Your Doctor Looking for?
Your doctor will perform many tests based on your malignant mesothelioma symptoms to make a diagnosis. One of the first examinations will be a blood draw. A CBC panel will show how well your kidneys and liver are working. Numbers are usually off when a disease is present.
An X-ray is another excellent tool as it can detect any abnormalities in the lungs. Radiologists look for a thickening of the pleura. This is the fluid that lubricates the space in between the lungs and chest wall. If there is fluid in the abdomen, this machine can also see it in the film.
A CT scan may be used to get a better view of the organs. It provides a three-dimensional picture and can detect lymph nodes. When there are concerns that cancer has spread to other areas, the CT scan is helpful.
A biopsy of the pleural or abdominal tissue may be examined under a microscope. It is the most accurate way to diagnose pleural mesothelioma.
What Is the Treatment for Malignant Mesothelioma?
Chemotherapy and Radiation
Unfortunately, there is no cure for this type of cancer. However, to gain control over the disease, surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy are often used for mesothelioma patients.
Chemotherapy will destroy the cancer cells and does not cause as much damage to healthy cells as radiation. Radiation therapy kills the damaged cancer cells. However, it is rarely used to treat peritoneal mesothelioma cases because it destroys healthy cells.
Surgical intervention can include removing the tumor and the pleura. In some cases, a portion of the lining of the heart must be separated. The goal is to extract as much of the disease as possible. In peritoneal mesothelioma, surgery is often not an option.
Managing the malignant mesothelioma symptoms is the best hope. Fluid builds up inside the lining of the chest wall and causes breathing problems. Removing this fluid using thoracoscopy surgery is necessary.
During this procedure, talcum powder can be injected into the cavity to prevent this build-up again. Unfortunately, not everyone is suitable for this type of operation.
A pleural drain can be installed that can be quickly emptied up to two times per week. The rate at which this fluid builds will dictate whether this procedure will be successful.
Medications can help with pain, insomnia, weight loss and fatigue. A treatment team can help control the malignant mesothelioma symptoms and improve the quality of life.
What Is the Malignant Mesothelioma Treatment Duration/Recovery Time
The prognosis is not good for those suffering from malignant mesothelioma. Around 7 to 9 percent of patients will make it beyond the five-year mark. The “rust belt states,” like Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Illinois, and Indiana, have the highest rate of deaths from this cancer. This is especially important because around 80 percent of all cases are caused by the exposure to asbestos.
Most people live around 12 – 21 months after they received their diagnosis. Early detection is the key to a longer life and having better symptom management. However, many people do not realize they have this illness until it is in the later stages and causing painful symptoms.
Globally, 43,000 people will die this year from mesothelioma. If you or a dear one have been living inhaling asbestos, it is best to get a diagnosis to make sure.
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