Mesothelioma is a scary disease because it typically does not present any symptoms until long after a person develops it. The cancer typically begins as a tiny nodule on the lining of the abdomen or lungs and, according to Asbestos.com, does not begin to cause any symptoms until 20 to 50 years after initial exposure to the causing agent. When it does present symptoms, the disease has likely already developed into stage three or stage four cancer. Individuals who believe they may have been exposed to asbestos at some point in their lives should educate themselves on the early warning signs mesothelioma.
The most common symptoms of mesothelioma, which include chest pain, fatigue and weight loss, typically do not appear until after the tumor has begun to press against the organs, nerves, bones and other parts of the body. Because these symptoms do not typically occur until the cancer has progressed to stage three or four cancer, the disease is difficult to diagnose early. However, in rare instances, a person may show a few telltale signs early on. This may be the case if the disease produces enough pleural fluid around the lungs to cause coughing and shortness of breath before the disease spreads.
The early-stage symptoms of mesothelioma look very similar to those of other, more common illnesses. Those symptoms include fever or night sweats, dry coughing or wheezing, shortness of breath, pain the abdomen or chest, fatigue, muscle weakness and pleural effusion. These symptoms mimic the common cold, the flu and possibly pneumonia. So, how can a person differentiate between a common ailment and the life-threatening cancer that is mesothelioma?
The best way for a person to receive an early diagnosis is to inform his or her primary care doctor of exposure to asbestos at any point during his or her life. According to Asbestos.com, asbestos exposure is a common denominating factor in 80% of mesothelioma cases. The other 20% of cases may result from exposure to radiation or fibrous materials, such as erionite. A person who received the polio vaccine between 1955 and 1963 may also be at risk, as is a person who has a family history of cancer.