Symptoms and Treatments for Mesothelioma
Mesothelioma is one of the few cancers that don't exhibit symptoms until the cancer reaches the late stage of development and it is at this point that many cases become incurable. It also has non-specific symptoms and thousands of cases each year are misdiagnosed as other, less severe respiratory conditions. Simply put, mesothelioma is a rare form of cancer that affects the thin layer of protective tissue around the major organs, most noticeably the lungs, heart and stomach and recently it has been positively linked to the mineral asbestos. This thin layer of tissue, the mesothelium, allows inhaled asbestos fibres to embed themselves, and it is here that they can lay dormant for up to 50 years before becoming cancerous.
The symptoms that are associated with mesothelioma depend on which of the body's organs are affected.
Pleural mesothelioma. This type of cancer affects the lungs and causes a number of symptoms including:
· Persistent cough that doesn't improve with medication
· Breathing difficulties
· Shortness of breath
· Difficulty swallowing
· Chest pain
· Weight loss
Pericardial mesothelioma. This second type of mesothelioma affects the heart tissue and includes the following symptoms:
· Breathing difficulties
· Chesty cough
Peritoneal mesothelioma. The third type of mesothelioma affects the stomach and causes the following symptoms:
· Nausea and vomiting
· Abdominal pain
· Weight loss
· Bloating of the stomach
· Bowel obstruction
Obviously all of these symptoms can also be due to a number of other conditions however anyone who experiences them should consult a doctor, especially those who have been exposed to asbestos in the past.
Unfortunately for mesothelioma victims, the symptoms only present themselves late in the cancer's development and so in many cases treatment is palliative rather than curative. There are a number of possible types of treatment that can be used against mesothelioma and the course of treatment that is prescribed will depend to a large extent on how developed the cancer is and how far it has spread around the body. This information can be determined using x-rays, CT scans and MRI scans because these imaging techniques can provide a detailed view of the cancer's progression and how many areas of the body are affected. The possible forms of treatment include surgery, chemotherapy, radiotherapy and palliative care and either a single form or a combination will be used.
Surgery. Surgery can be used in cases where there is an obvious large tumour however it will only become an option if the tumour is causing chronic pain or if it is causing an obstruction e.g. in one or both of the lungs. Because mesothelioma can take between 30 and 50 years to develop many sufferers are elderly when they are diagnosed and so the option of surgery will also depend on age and general state of health. Occasionally it is considered safer to live with the tumour than to risk the rigors of surgery.
Radiotherapy. Radiotherapy is most effective when the mesothelioma is confined to a single site, such as the lungs. It can and often is used in conjunction with chemotherapy as an extra defence against any small pockets of cancerous cells that might survive drug therapy. Radiotherapy can produce some side effects however they are easily treated and rarely cause problems.
Chemotherapy. Chemotherapy for mesothelioma will more often than not involve a stay in hospital while a specific drug concoction is introduced to the body intravenously. Chemotherapy is used when the cancer has spread to other areas and so the treatment needs to attack multiple sites.
Palliative care. Palliative care can include any of the above treatments however they will be aimed at improving and extending the quality of life rather than providing a cure. Palliative care will also include pain relief as in many cases the mesothelioma is well advanced and causing chronic chest and abdominal discomfort.
Mesothelioma is considered a rare form of cancer however in the last decade the number of cases diagnosed each year has steadily risen. Since becoming associated with asbestos many victims have successfully sued their former employers and many more are starting proceedings each and every year. Today workers have to wear protective clothing and breathing apparatus while working with asbestos and so it may be that the presence of mesothelioma dies along with the current generation.
Andrew Daigle is the owner, creator and author of many successful websites including CancerAbout, a Cancer Information Resource site and a Mesothelioma Lawyer Resource site.
Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/?expert=Andrew_Daigle