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Recognize these signs of mesothelioma

If you worked in an industry that exposed you to asbestos fibers at any time in the past, you have good reason to worry about mesothelioma in your present.

However, would you know the symptoms of mesothelioma if you saw them? Early identification is very difficult, simply because there are few symptoms when the illness first begins -- so having a regular checkup with your doctor is always your best protection. In fact, mesothelioma is usually diagnosed through routine blood work or x-rays.

In between checkups, watch for these early signs of a problem:

  • Unusual symptoms of fatigue
  • Unexplained muscular weakness
  • A dry, hacking cough or chronic wheezing not explained by smoking
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Shortness of breath even when not exercising
  • Night sweats and fevers
  • Pain in your abdomen or chest

Once the disease starts to spread, you're likely to see an aggravation of all of those symptoms plus:

  • Unexplained pain and body aches
  • Unintended weight loss
  • Decreased appetite
  • Trouble swallowing
  • Limited bowel movements
  • Anemia
  • Testicular pain or swelling (in men)

It's important to understand that everyone has different reactions to illness and not everyone experiences the same thing. While the majority of patients -- 79 percent -- experience shortness of breath when they develop mesothelioma, that leaves some who do not.

Misdiagnosis is also common. Absent other symptoms, your doctor may think that you have something like a bronchial infection or asthma. Some types of mesothelioma can be misdiagnosed as irritable bowel syndrome or heart disease.

That's why you should always seek a second opinion if your instincts tell you that something else may be going on or you don't respond quickly to treatments for other conditions.

It's also important that you tell doctors about all your medical symptoms -- not just the most troublesome ones or the ones that seem important. A doctor can make a better diagnosis with better information.

It's also important that you remember that there is compensation available for victims of mesothelioma when their disease can be traced to exposure through their work or military service. Compensation can make it easier to afford your bills and treatment after a diagnosis.

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