Mesothelioma is a rare cancer that is caused by exposure to asbestos. Fortunately, the amount of asbestos in everyday products has dramatically decreased over the past 50 years. However, there are still many people who are being exposed to the deadly fibers. These people are at risk of developing mesothelioma and other cancers.
For many of the other types of cancer, there are screening tests for people who are at an increased risk. You may hear about people who have a family history of breast cancer or lung cancer going through screenings to check for early signs. Mesothelioma, however, is more difficult to detect early.
Here’s what you’ll want to keep in mind if you or a loved one has been exposed to asbestos.
Early symptoms are easy to miss
Since mesothelioma primarily develops when asbestos particles are inhaled and make their way to the lungs, many of the symptoms of mesothelioma are easy to miss. Often the early symptoms include:
- Shortness of breath
- Abdominal pain
- Nausea and vomiting
Many of these symptoms are easy to dismiss as a cold or the flu. Fortunately, it is more likely that a person with these symptoms does not have an asbestos-related illness. If, however, a person with these symptoms has had exposure to asbestos, it becomes more important to see a doctor and have more extensive testing done.
Your doctor will check for mesothelioma by starting with a physical exam. The primary purpose of the exam is to look for fluid build-up around the lungs, heart or groin.
Your doctor should also use imaging tests. These may include chest x-rays, computed tomography (CT) scans, echocardiograms, positron emission tomography (PET) scans and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans.
Keep in mind that while mesothelioma is a serious form of cancer, it is also quite rare. Getting a diagnosis as early as possible is critical to a better survival rate. The earlier mesothelioma is caught, the more effective treatment can be and the more treatment options there are.