While many people don’t know about it, asbestos is a highly hazardous material found in household products, construction materials, and other items. This fibrous silicate mineral causes lung cancer and rare cancer known as mesothelioma. Mesothelioma is developed by inhaling asbestos fibers. It’s a highly aggressive form of cancer that leaves most patients with only a year’s worth of life expectancy after a confirmed diagnosis. While there is no proper cure for mesothelioma, treatment options are available to help minimize the symptoms. If the diagnosis is confirmed as early as possible, these treatments prove most effective.
It is for this reason that early diagnosis of mesothelioma is imperative. The following article guides you on the steps to take if you or a loved one suspects mesothelioma.
1. Assess your symptoms
Since the symptoms of any disease vary from person to person, mesothelioma is no different. The symptoms of mesothelioma are often confused with pneumonia or other lung-related conditions, given their similarity. However, there are some concrete indicators that you can look for to confirm mesothelioma.
Common tell-tale symptoms you should look out for include persistent coughing, running out of breath quickly, and chest or abdominal pain. Additionally, try to recall if you’ve had any asbestos exposure recently or over the past few years. Be it a new house, a construction site, or a chemical plant, keep the exposure in mind, as this will fasten your diagnosis process.
2. Consult a physician
It is advisable to consult an oncologist or a general physician to confirm the diagnosis. After scheduling an appointment, the doctor will physically examine your organs and vital signs. You are to report any symptoms, family history of mesothelioma, asbestos exposure, the duration of exposure, and how long you’ve been noticing the signs.
This information will allow the healthcare professional to evaluate your condition appropriately.
3. Lab tests
Initially, your doctor will order blood tests to rule out other disorders. After specific protein markers (indicating mesothelioma) have been identified in your blood, your doctor may order additional tests. After examining the results of these tests, a successful diagnosis can be made. Moreover, details about the tumor, such as cell type and stage, can also be determined.
Cell type is a distinguishable characteristic in determining the type of mesothelioma. Usually, there can be three cell types in mesothelioma. Epithelioid cell type is the most common one. Mesothelioma primarily resides in the lining of the lungs. But it can also attack the lining of the abdomen and heart. CT and PET scans will probably be conducted to locate the tumor, determine the size and severity. These tests are entirely painless; however, they may induce anxiety in some people. Depending on the results, additional testing may be required, or you may be referred to a specialized physician, like an oncologist, a mesothelioma specialist, or a surgeon.
After obtaining the results of the CT or PET scan, doctors can decide on what to do next. Surgeons will likely order a biopsy if the imaging result confirms a tumor. It’s a procedure in which live tissue will be extracted from your lungs via thoracoscopy. You will probably get anesthesia to reduce pain during the process. The tissue is then extracted and taken to the lab for examination by a pathologist. The pathologist will then confirm your condition and provide additional information about the cell type and severity of cancer.
5. Next steps
After the diagnosis has been solidified and results have been confirmed, there are many options you can consider. You may either ask your doctor to create a treatment plan or choose to consider a second opinion. Since misdiagnosis is a common problem with mesothelioma, it’s advisable to consult a mesothelioma specialist to ensure your diagnosis is correct. As for treatment, medication and chemotherapy may be implemented.
Likewise, you might receive complementary therapies like acupuncture to alleviate the side effects of chemotherapy. Since your treatment plan will be oriented to your symptoms specifically, you must be fully informed before starting therapy. However, if there’s anything you’re confused about, ensure to approach your doctor as soon as possible.
As with any medical complication, the faster the diagnosis, the better is the prognosis. Likewise, mesothelioma is no exception. There are various symptoms you can look out for to confirm the diagnosis. Depending on how fast you identify the problem, the course of treatment may be much less taxing for you. Using the tips in the article, you can ensure that the process is more manageable and less frustrating for you. Nonetheless, it is always best to consider a second opinion and approach support groups in the journey of healing. Eventually, you’ll come across people who can relate to your situation and learn to cope with your problem through their advice.