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Should you be examined for asbestos-related illness? Individuals who have been exposed (or suspect they have been exposed) to asbestos fibers on the job or at home via a family contact should inform their physician of their exposure history and any symptoms. Asbestos fibers can be measured in urine, feces, mucus, or material rinsed out of the lungs. A thorough physical examination, including a chest x-ray and lung function tests, may be recommended. It is important to note that chest x-rays won't detect asbestos fibers in the lungs, but they can help identify any lung changes resulting from asbestos exposure. Interpretation of the chest x-ray may require the help of a specialist who is experienced in reading x-rays for asbestos-related diseases.
If a possible site for mesothelioma cancer cells is identified, a biopsy is needed to confirm a diagnosis of mesothelioma. In a biopsy, a surgeon or a doctor who specializes in diagnosing and treating cancer--an medical oncologist--removes a sample of tissue for examination under a microscope by a pathologist.
A biopsy for identifying mesothelioma can be done in different ways, depending on the location of the abnormal area. If the cancer is in the chest, the doctor may perform a thoracoscopy, which is a small cut through the chest wall and inserting a thin, lighted tube called a thoracoscope into the chest between two ribs. Thoracoscopy lets the doctor look inside the chest and obtain tissue samples. If the cancer is in the abdomen, the doctor may perform a peritoneoscopy. In this procedure, the doctor makes a small opening in the abdomen and inserts a special instrument called a peritoneoscope into the abdominal cavity. If these procedures do not yield enough tissue, more extensive diagnostic surgery may be necessary.
Determining the existence of mesothelioma in a patient is only part of approaching treatment. If the diagnosis is mesothelioma, the doctor will want to learn the stage or extent of the disease. Staging involves more tests in a careful attempt to find out whether the cancer has spread and, if so, to which parts of the body. Knowing the stage of the disease helps the doctor plan treatment.
Only a doctor can definitively diagnose mesothelioma, however you should see a doctor if you show signs of the disease, as those symptoms can be caused by other conditions that are less serious. Symptoms include shortness of breath and pain in the chest due to an accumulation of fluid in the pleura are often symptoms of pleural mesothelioma. Symptoms of peritoneal mesothelioma include weight loss and abdominal pain and swelling due to a buildup of fluid in the abdomen. Other symptoms of peritoneal mesothelioma may include bowel obstruction, blood clotting abnormalities, anemia, and fever. If the cancer has spread beyond the mesothelium to other parts of the body, symptoms may include pain, trouble swallowing, or swelling of the neck or face. Symptoms of mesothelioma may not appear until 30 to 50 years after exposure to asbestos.
Diagnosing mesothelioma is often difficult, because the symptoms can be confused with those of a number of other conditions. Diagnosis begins with a review of the patient's medical history, especially any history of asbestos exposure. A complete physical examination may be performed, including x-rays of the chest or abdomen and lung function tests. A CT (or CAT) scan or an MRI may also be useful.
Mesothelioma staging strives to find out how far the cancer has spread. With the use of x-rays and MRI scans, this is an accurate way to see what stage the cancer is on.
Stage one is where mesothelioma is on one side of the chest and isn’t growing into the chest wall. It will either be on the right or left side of the chest and spread to a few small spots in the outer lining of the lung. Stage two is when mesothelioma makes its way into the chest wall and has grown into the pleura on the other side of the chest.
For stage three, mesothelioma has grown through the diaphragm into the lining of the abdominal cavity. This is where it spreads to lymph nodes past the chest. Stage four is the worst stage for mesothelioma as it can spread into numerous locations. It can spread into the chest wall, through the diaphragm, into any organ in the mediastinum, the spine, to the other side of the chest from where it was, the heart, nerves leading to the arm, lymph nodes and organs through the bloodstream.
Although mesothelioma patients attempt to battle the cancer and take legal action, the survival rate is sadly less than one year after one is diagnosed with it. Nonetheless, as technology increases and because more doctors are taking an interest in mesothelioma, life expectancy is gradually increasing after diagnosis.
Many mesothelioma patients only have a short time to live because the disease cannot be detected until it is in the later stages. Consistent exposure is the primary cause of mesothelioma and symptoms typically take at least fifty years to develop. Without the symptoms, one is oblivious that they have the disease.
If an individual works in an asbestos factory or feels they may have come across asbestos, they should take it upon themselves to see their family doctor at least every six months. Even though the common doctor does not know how to properly cure the disease, they do know how to detect it.
The Mesomark blood test has emerged for this disease and can detect signs of this cancer when it is in the early stages. This will help many exposed live a longer life because mesothelioma is easier to treat in the early stages.
There are almost no early symptoms of mesothelioma thus most patients with mesothelioma are diagnosed in a late stage of the cancers development. Often times it takes a period of fifteen to twenty years after exposure to asbestos (or, more rarely, radiation) for the cancer to make it's presence apparent via a set of bodily symptoms and even then these symptoms are often mistaken for less serious illnesses. If you have been exposed to asbestos for a period of time the only real way to catch mesothelioma in its early stages is to get regular chest x rays or pulmonary function tests.
Common mesothelioma symptoms include a persistent dry and/or dusty cough, shortness of breath, and fatigue. These mesothelioma symptoms are generally brushed off as the effects of a less serious illness while other common symptoms such as coughing up blood, night fever, and chronic chest pain or painful breathing can shake a person up enough to warrant an immediate trip to the doctors office. However, these symptoms generally only manifest in a late stage of the cancers development.
Mesothelioma is a cancer that causes symptoms of a cough, shortness of breath and abdominal or chest pain. If in the past an individual was exposed to asbestos and is now starting to show any of the above symptoms, it is crucial to see a medical doctor right away.
Clinical diagnosis of mesothelioma occurs through testing with a chest radiograph, blood tests and biopsies. A mesothelioma diagnosis and prognosis depends on the age of the individual and where the tumor is located within the body and if it can be accessed and removed with surgery. Another important factor is whether the individual is a smoker. The overall health of the individual is very important as well because if they are already compromised with other medical conditions, then it will be difficult to treat this disease.
Often, a mesothelioma diagnosis is very devastating because a mesothelioma prognosis is often fatal. However, with new treatment options, the outlook for the future is looking brighter. The best way to have success with any type of treatment is early detection.