Mesothelioma is a type of cancer that affects the pleural membrane of the lungs and the abdomen. The major symptoms of this incurable disease are shortness of breath, chest pain, wheezing, coughing blood and unexpected weight loss. The primary cause of mesothelioma is asbestos. Asbestos is a group of magnesium silicates which have fibrous structures and they enable asbestos to separate easily. Asbestos particles easily suspend in the air because they are essentially small and light particles.
The constituent fibers are in two shapes: straight and round. The disease is caused mostly by the straight fiber particles than the curved fibers. At the mining and manufacturing sites, asbestos becomes airborne by disintegrating during the mining or manufacturing processes, and then these get deposited in the lungs of the workers at the site. Poor ventilation at the site increases the risk of asbestos deposit in the lungs.
You may believe you can get rid of the deposited fibers by coughing; whereby the fibers travel in the form of mucus to your throat and you can spit it or swallow it. In the latter case, fibers can be released through egestion. But you are wrong in your assumption and not all the fibers get removed from the lungs.
The fibers left in the lung travel to different parts of your body like air sacs, the alveoli where there is an interchange of oxygen and carbon-dioxide gases in your bloodstream. These fibers stay longest in your lungs at the lower part and the diaphragm which moves the muscle while breathing and damages the lung all the time they stay there. The whole process is very slow, and you may not notice any symptoms for at least the first 15 years.
Symptoms of Mesothelioma
At the early stage, symptoms are very mild and may not be identifiable by you; however, the symptoms are noticed at the later stage and force you to consult a doctor. You may experience a little pain around the tumor or tiredness all the time during the early stages of cancer. At the later stage of cancer, you may experience symptoms like; shortness of breath, chronic pain near the tumor, weight loss, fluid buildup or bowel obstruction.
There are different treatments and therapies that can relieve the symptoms, such as talc pleurodesis, and is also capable of preventing the occurrence of symptoms again.
Diagnosis of Mesothelioma
The use of imaging scans and biopsies are essential for the diagnosis purposes. The different tests used for the diagnosis are: the basic chest X-ray; imaging scan like a PET scan, CT scan or MRI, if there are abnormalities found; biopsy is done if there is confirmation of mesothelioma; wherein a sample of the tissue is collected to make a confirmation of the presence of asbestos mesothelioma cells.
There are also blood tests available, but they are not competent tests for confirming cancer. There are different researches going on to determine if the blood tests can diagnose cancer at the early stage for at-risk former asbestos workers.