Mesothelioma is such a unique type of cancer, first of all because of the fact that it begins in the mesothelium, the protective tissue around the organs, and secondly because of its extremely long latency period. Patients with mesothelioma are typically not diagnosed until anywhere from 20 to 50 years after exposure to asbestos.
The Onset of Mesothelioma
Asbestos fibers are inhaled or ingested, and eventually come to rest in the mesothelial cells surrounding the heart, lungs, or abdomen. Over time, the fibers accumulate and cause scarring, which then promotes the development of cancer cells. In many cases, mesothelioma victims will experience no symptoms until the cancer cells migrate to other areas of the body. Even with regular physical checkups, physicians can miss the presence of cancer cells in the mesothelium until years later when the disease has become rampant and caused irreversible damage.
Common Symptoms of Mesothelioma
There are three types of mesothelioma: peritoneal, affecting the abdomen lining, pericardial, affecting the heart lining, and pleural, affecting the lining of the lungs. In the majority of cases of all three types, early warning symptoms are simply not present.
When these cancers do start to affect the body, the symptoms tend to be similar to symptoms of very common illnesses or diseases, leading to frequent misdiagnosis.
Any of the following symptoms could be an indication of mesothelioma:
- Swelling of the feet
- Fluid in the lungs
- Weight gain
- Chest pain
- Night sweats
- Weight loss
- Shortness of breath
- Bowel obstruction
- Persistent dry cough
- Difficulty swallowing
- Coughing up blood
- Lumps under the skin in the chest
Medical and Legal Help for Mesothelioma
If you have been in prolonged contact with asbestos or you suspect a former work environment contained illegal asbestos, schedule a thorough health evaluation and then contact a mesothelioma attorney to help you understand your rights. Try to compile a summary of when you think you might have been exposed, estimating dates and length of time. Your attorney will lead a full investigation to help you gather the facts and get the answers you need about dangerous asbestos exposure. If asbestos exposure led to serious health problems like mesothelioma, you may be entitled to significant compensation for the bodily harm you’ve suffered.