Mesothelioma is a rare form of cancer that causes tumors on the lining of the lungs, heart and stomach. It makes up 0.3% of cancer cases, or 3,000 per year, but it can be the deadliest in Cleveland, Ohio, and nationwide.
Mesothelioma symptoms differ based on the location of the cancer. General mesothelioma symptoms include weight loss when not trying, fever, persistent coughing with or without blood, blood clots and fatigue. Pleural mesothelioma occurs in the lungs, and it may cause hoarseness, shortness of breath, difficulty swallowing, chest pain, painful coughing and a lump underneath the chest tissue.
Peritoneal mesothelioma occurs in the stomach area with common symptoms that include abdominal pain, vomiting, nausea, constipation and abdominal swelling. Pericardial mesothelioma affects the lining of the heart and may cause trouble breathing, irregular heart rate and heart murmurs.
Risk factors, diagnosis and treatment
Mesothelioma is often tricky to diagnose since symptoms may mimic other conditions. It could also take 20 years or more before symptoms show. Certain industries increase the risk of asbestos exposure, including ship building, pipefitting, mining, plumbing, electrical work and HVAC. A genetic link or living with someone who gets exposed to asbestos could increase a person’s risk.
Treatment depends on the stage and location, but cases commonly begin with a CT or PET scan and a biopsy to test the lump. Surgery may be an option in the early stages of the disease.
A patient may opt for chemotherapy or immunotherapy with radiation or no radiation when the cancer has advanced beyond surgical repair. Approximately 25% of older patients choose palliative care to manage pain.
While treatment has improved, asbestos exposure and mesothelioma have devastating consequences financially, emotionally and physically. If a person feels their job caused their exposure, an attorney may be able to help them bring a case against the employer.