About three percent of all cancer cases in the United states are diagnosed as mesothelioma. Its primary cause is exposure to asbestos which was used extensively in the 20th century in many different industries. The fibers from asbestos could be inhaled or ingested into the human body and become embedded in tissue. That tissue would become infected or inflamed and could eventually become cancerous. It can take from 20 to 50 years for mesothelioma to develop after exposure to asbestos. Other potential causes of this disease are radiation, exposure to zeolite which is similar to asbestos, polio vaccines that were contaminated with the SV40 virus between 1955 and 1963, and X-ray imaging that used thorium dioxide.
There are varying symptoms that might indicate mesothelioma. Any one of these symptoms may or may not be present in any given individual, or they may all be present. Some of the more common symptoms include shortness of breath, weight loss that is otherwise unexplained, chest wall pain that seems heavy and achy, fever, night sweats, hoarseness, persistent cough, and abdominal pain and swelling. There may be other symptoms as well, but if any exist, a doctor should be consulted immediately.
Diagnosis of mesothelioma will usually begin with the doctor reviewing the patient’s medical past then scheduling tests to assist in the diagnosis. X-rays, CT scans, PET scans, and MRI scans are all common avenues taken to find the cause of any symptoms. These tests will likely disclose the size and kind of cancer and its location. If any is found, a biopsy will be performed to determine whether the cancer is malignant or benign.
Following the diagnosis of mesothelioma, a plan must be devised to start the best treatment for the individual patient. Options are usually surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation. Patients will usually have to have a number of treatments to fight this disease. There are also experimental treatments available through clinical trials such as immunotherapy, gene therapy, and photodynamic therapy.
When a person is diagnosed with a disease like mesothelioma, some of their first reactions are shock, denial, and fear. Coming to terms with the diagnosis might take a while. Learning as much as possible about mesothelioma and putting a positive focus on life is extremely important for the well-being of the patient and those close to him. Eating well, exercising, and doing anything they can to take their mind off their disease is their best course of action.