Understanding Risk Factors and Symptoms of Mesothelioma
Many people with malignant mesothelioma have worked or lived in places where they inhaled or swallowed asbestos. After being exposed to asbestos, it usually takes a long time for malignant mesothelioma to occur. Because asbestos is very resistant to fire, it was used in many settings. Perhaps the most common was on ships (particularly navy vessels), in construction (around pipes and in roofing) and in automobile brake pads. Asbestos is found free in nature in only a few places in the world, most notably central Turkey and Western Australia. About 90% of people that get mesothelioma can trace their asbestos exposure, but not all people can.
What are the symptoms of mesothelioma?
Possible signs of malignant mesothelioma include shortness of breath and pain under the rib cage.
Sometimes the cancer causes fluid to collect around the lung or in the abdomen. The fluid accumulation can cause shortness of breath or swelling of the abdomen. However, these symptoms are not necessarily suggesting mesothelioma. Other medical conditions may cause the same symptoms. Other symptoms may include fever, soaking sweat, or weight loss.
Test and Diagnosis
The only way to know for sure if someone has mesothelioma is by biopsy or by an aspiration of the fluid accumulation.
Other tests can examine the inside of the chest and abdomen to understand the extent (stage) of malignant mesothelioma. In addition, sometimes it is hard to tell the difference between malignant mesothelioma and benign conditions. The following tests and procedures may be used:
- CAT scan or CT scan: A computerized tomography of the chest or abdomen/pelvis. The test uses radiography technique with contrast to be taken orally or to be injected intravenously and multiple pictures are taken of the body using x-ray.
- Blood tests: Some blood tests can help determine the severity of mesothelioma and co-existing medical conditions. Serum mesothelin can sometimes be useful to monitor response to therapy.
- Biopsy: The removal of cells or tissues from the pleura or peritoneum so they can be viewed under a microscope by a pathologist to check for cancer.
- MRI: A magnetic resonancy imaging is a test in which images of internal organs are obtained using magnetic waves. The test involves lying still on an examination table for pictures to be taken for about 30 minutes. This test is useful to understand the extent of mesothelioma near the diaphragm.
- PET scan: A positron Emission Tomography is a test in which images of organs actively involved by cancers are obtained. PET scan is useful to help understand which abnormal area on the CAT scan is cancerous and which area is not cancerous. Most active mesothelioma, but not all, can be seen by the PET scan.