Mesothelioma, a rare and terminal form of cancer caused by exposure to asbestos, is a worldwide problem. Yet despite the well-known risks associated with asbestos exposure, misdiagnosis is still an issue.
A recent case highlighted by ABC News reinforces the need for greater awareness of mesothelioma symptoms. An Australian couple was en route to New York for a vacation, when one of the individuals began having extreme difficulty breathing. After arrival, she required surgery to drain a lung. A chest x-ray revealed a buildup of fluid in the lungs and she was subsequently diagnosed with mesothelioma. She had been to the doctor twice in the week prior to the trip and failed to get an accurate diagnosis.
A difficult initial diagnosis
Mesothelioma can be hard to diagnose because many of the symptoms are similar to much less severe conditions, including pneumonia and asthma. Symptoms of mesothelioma include:
- Chest pain
- Shortness of breath
- Weight loss
- Body aches
Many patients wait for 6 months with the above symptoms prior to even seeing a doctor.
Greater awareness is needed
The president of the National Asbestos Diseases Foundation of Australia, Barry Robson, told ABC News that the mesothelioma victim’s experience mentioned above is not unique. It is easy for a general practitioner to dismiss the symptoms of mesothelioma. This is particularly true in cases of indirect exposure to asbestos, such as from washing clothes that have been in contact with asbestos. Indirect contact can cause mesothelioma, but it is easy for people to dismiss or forget this type of exposure.
The dangers of asbestos exposure have been known for a long time. However, the danger and prevalence of asbestos have received less attention in recent years. It is vitally important that the symptoms of mesothelioma are known to both doctors and the public. Knowing the symptoms can help patients obtain an accurate diagnosis in the initial stages of the disease, which can greatly improve patient outcomes. Hopefully, more people will learn about mesothelioma and the dangers of asbestos so that fewer people will experience the tragedy faced by the victim discussed above.