Common Symptoms of Mesothelioma

Common Symptoms of Mesothelioma

Mesothelioma is an aggressive, deadly form of cancer that affects the thin lining of tissue covering the major organs. While it most commonly occurs in the lungs as a result of exposure to asbestos, it can also affect the heart, stomach, and other areas of the body. Read on to learn more about common mesothelioma symptoms as well as prevention of and treatment for this condition.

Signs of Mesothelioma

The symptoms of mesothelioma vary depending on the affected organs.

Pleural mesothelioma, the most common form, is a type of lung cancer. People who have pleural mesothelioma may experience chest pain (especially under the rib cage), trouble breathing or shortness of breath, unexplained tissue growths on the chest, and unexplained weight loss.

When mesothelioma affects the stomach and other abdominal organs (a condition known as peritoneal mesothelioma), symptoms may include abdominal pain and swelling, tissue growths in this area of the body, and unexplained weight loss.

Pericardial mesothelioma, which affects the heart, manifests with chest pain and breathing difficulty.

What Causes Mesothelioma?

The single biggest risk factor for this type of cancer is exposure to asbestos, a naturally occurring mineral whose strong fibers are commonly used in insulation, brakes, shingles, flooring, and other manufacturing applications. When asbestos breaks down, the fibers can be inhaled, which causes lung irritation that can lead to mesothelioma. If the fibers are swallowed, the disease may affect the stomach.

Some people never get mesothelioma despite years of asbestos exposure, while others may develop the disease after relatively minimal exposure. The risk for this type of cancer is higher among those who have occupational exposure to asbestos; those who live with someone who works with asbestos, as the fibers can travel on skin and clothing; and those who have a family history of mesothelioma.

Treatments for Mesothelioma

Surgery to remove the cancer may be possible if it is detected early enough for this type of procedure to be effective. Because mesothelioma is an aggressive, fast growing cancer, however, most people with the condition are not curable. For that reason, treatment often focuses on reducing symptoms to improve quality of life as much as possible.

Depending on the extent and location of the disease, your doctor may recommend surgery to drain fluid from the lungs, which can ease breathing; surgery to remove as much cancerous tissue as possible, which can relieve signs and symptoms as well as improve the accuracy of radiation treatments; and chemotherapy and radiation to kill cancer cells and reduce troublesome symptoms.

Mesothelioma Prevention

The best way to prevent this type of cancer is to limit exposure to asbestos. If you work in a profession that is at high risk for asbestos exposure, be sure to follow all recommended safety precautions. Shower and change out of work clothes before leaving the job site to reduce your risk as well as that of your family members. If you live in an older home, consult with an asbestos detection and removal expert before undergoing any renovations.