At this point in the research on cancer, it is no longer news that an earlier diagnosis leads to a better prognosis. With some cancers such as mesothelioma, however, early detection can be difficult. It can take decades to start showing symptoms, and, even then, those symptoms can be easy to dismiss.
Attention to your symptoms is critical
While any exposure to asbestos can lead to mesothelioma, prolonged exposure can increase that risk.
The symptoms of mesothelioma are easy to dismiss. Since mesothelioma is so rare, even doctors often miss the diagnosis. This is especially true since many of the early symptoms are consistent with a cold, the flu or pneumonia. In the face of these more common illnesses, doctors are more likely to choose a diagnosis that is more likely. Medical professionals will often say that if something looks and acts like a zebra, then it is, in all likelihood, a zebra.
Is it time for a second opinion?
It can be difficult to know when it is time to get a second opinion. Especially after leaving the doctor’s office with such a common diagnosis. These additional risk factors could signal that it might be time to get a second opinion:
- A history radiation therapy. If you are already at risk for mesothelioma due to prior exposure to asbestos, radiation therapy for another cancer could increase the risk that mesothelioma could develop. This is especially the case if you have had radiation therapy for other chest cancers.
- A family history of mesothelioma. Even more rare than this aggressive cancer is the chance that the risk will pass from one family member to another, however, there have been cases where mesothelioma has passed from a parent to a child.
- Age. Once the initial exposure to asbestos has occurred, the risk of developing mesothelioma increases with age. Typically, it can take 20 years or more to develop mesothelioma.
- Exposure to other inhalable fibers. Exposure to fibers such as erionite can also lead to mesothelioma. Although exposure to these fibers in the United States is rare, exposure to them while traveling could increase the likelihood of developing mesothelioma.
The benefit of an earlier diagnosis
From the first exposure to asbestos to the time you develop and are diagnosed with mesothelioma, it is a race against the clock. Exposure to asbestos alone does not mean you will develop mesothelioma, but exposure significantly increases the risk. Getting a diagnosis as early as possible means there are more treatment options.