Close to 80% of all mesothelioma victims have been exposed to asbestos in their daily lives. And of them, over 30% of those people were members of the armed forces. Malignant mesothelioma is a relatively rare form of cancer that develops in the mesothelium as a result of inhaling or imbibing small particles of asbestos. This can affect the genitals, the heart, the stomach, the throat, and, most often, the lungs.
There are actually five different types of mesothelioma, and only one of them, benign mesothelioma, does not become cancerous. Below are descriptions of the other four in the order of their prominence:
- Pleural mesothelioma affects about 75% of all mesothelioma victims. It develops in the pleura (lining of the lungs). Symptoms are chest pain, cough, lumps under the skin of the chest, shortness of breath, and fatigue.
- Peritoneal mesothelioma counts for about 20% of the cases, and forms in the peritoneal membrane, which is the lining of the abdominal cavity. The symptoms of this are abdominal swelling and pain, bowel obstruction, nausea, and loss of weight.
- Pericardial mesothelioma is less common, and affects maybe 5% of the victims of mesothelioma. It develops in the lining of the heart…that sac that surrounds it (the pericardium). Look for difficulty breathing, heart palpitation, chest pain, irregular heartbeat, and night sweating.
- Testicular mesothelioma is very rare. It has its start in the lining of the testicles (tunica vaginalis). Symptoms are lumps in the testicles that may or may not be painful.
To beat any cancer it must be discovered in the early stages. Mesothelioma victims do not have that advantage. Often the symptoms don’t even show up until two to five decades AFTER the exposure to asbestos. You need to see a doctor as soon as any of these symptoms occur, especially if you have, at an time in your life, been exposed to asbestos. However, you should not panic, as so many other medical problems share similar symptoms. It is far better to be safe than sorry.
If the doctor suspects a problem, he will recommend several different tests. Most of them are scans, such as MRI, CT, and PET scans. X-rays most likely would come first. If lumps or fluid build-ups are found, a biopsy will come next to test the tissue, or the liquid for malignant cells.
Should it come to that, it would be wise to not try to go it alone. In addition to your doctors, there are wonderful support groups, mesothelioma victim centers, charities, and other groups to help with financial aid.