Early detection of a terrible disease makes treating it easier, bolsters the patient’s quality of life, and even extends their lifespan. Among different cancer variations, mesothelioma remains a rare one, affecting some 3,000 Americans every year. It accounts for just 0.16% of cancer diagnoses in the United States and can be caused by prolonged asbestos exposure. Mesothelioma can stay dormant in one’s body and manifest after several decades. Army veterans who served in the 20th century can testify to this fact.
Recognizing mesothelioma symptoms early can help you get proper treatment before it consumes you. You can take proactive steps towards improving your quality of life by properly understanding the gravity of these symptoms.
Common Symptoms Of Mesothelioma
Army veterans are disproportionately affected by mesothelioma. Data shows that Navy veterans comprise the largest percentage of mesothelioma claims (about one-third) because naval ships contained hundreds of asbestos-containing products scattered in engine rooms, mess halls, and sleeping quarters.
Sadly, it’s both a rare and costly disease. Treatment options may include chemo, surgery, immunotherapy, radiation therapy, and other methods. On the other hand, palliative treatments ease the symptoms, boost your quality of life, and even extend your lifespan. Similarly, other treatment options manage pain, induce relaxation, and improve nutrition. All of this may cost thousands of dollars without insurance!
Since many army mesothelioma cases stem from long-term asbestos exposure, you can apply for financial VA benefits to cover the cost of treating this cancer. This compensation helps you afford not only your treatment and rehabilitation but also your all living expenses and in-home caregiving.
Now, let’s look at some of the symptoms that are the common warning signs of this cancer.
- Shortness of breath: It’s the most common symptom of mesothelioma, i.e., you have difficulty just breathing or feel breathless. It happens because of pleural effusion, a condition explained below.
- Fluid around lungs: When excess fluid accumulates between your chest cavity and lung lining, it’s called pleural effusion. This condition leads to many other mesothelioma symptoms, such as chest pain and dry cough, among other warning signs of cancer.
- Exhaustion: While your body is busy fighting cancer, it can result in unexpected weakness. You can feel exhausted because your immune system is constantly at war against mesothelioma, resulting in a feeling of constant fatigue.
- Back pain: Over 50% of patients will experience this symptom, i.e., pain in the upper or lower back. It’s caused by that excess fluid pressing up against your lungs and making it harder to breathe and swallow.
- Weight loss: Unintended weight loss is a mesothelioma symptom experienced by some 50% of all patients. It will be rapid, unexplained, and lead to further exhaustion.
- Dry cough: While mesothelioma patients suffer from persistent chest pain, they also suffer from episodes of dry coughing that don’t respond to usual treatments.
- Coughing up blood: You may cough up blood or experience wheezing in this condition. Just 4% of patients go through this symptom, though.
- Swelling: Swelling in the abdomen, chest, or face area may occur due to fluid accumulation or tumor growth.
- Night sweats: Fever and night sweats aren’t as common as they may indicate mesothelioma too.
- Anemia: A declining red blood cell count leads to fatigue and pale skin.
Recognizing these early warning signs leads to early detection and timely mesothelioma treatment. But bear in mind these symptoms may also indicate other ailments.
Different Mesothelioma Types Symptoms
Today, four major types of mesothelioma exist, and a patient’s symptoms may slightly differ based on their type of cancer. Even the treatment approach may vary based on the type and stage of cancer in the patient’s body. These types have been classified based on where exactly in the body mesothelioma is developing. So, here’s a brief breakdown of mesothelioma symptoms based on location:
- Pleural mesothelioma: It’s the most common type of mesothelioma, which affects the lung lining. It’s further characterized into subtypes, and epithelioid malignant mesothelioma is the dominant form, accounting for 60% to 80% of all cases nationwide. It often causes symptoms like chest pain, persistent cough, shortness of breath, pleural thickening, pleural effusion, and excessive sweating, among others.
- Peritoneal mesothelioma: This type affects the lining of the abdominal cavity (peritoneum). Some symptoms include abdominal pain, swelling, appetite loss, nausea and vomiting, and changes in bowel habits (constipation), along with fatigue and diarrhea.
- Pericardial mesothelioma: This rare form affects your pericardium or the lining around your heart. Patients may suffer chest pain, irregular heartbeats, difficulty breathing, weight loss, anemia, and abdominal distension.
- Testicular mesothelioma: This type affects the lining of the testicles and may be found as a lump or swelling in the scrotum. So, hydrocele, swollen testes, or testicular pain may indicate this type of cancer.
Different Stages Of Mesothelioma
You can better understand the gravity of the symptoms mentioned above by realizing which cancer stage they indicate. Mesothelioma can be categorized into four distinct stages per how far it has spread in the patient’s body. So, here’s how mesothelioma symptoms show the stage of cancer:
- Stage 1 (localized): In this stage, the tumor grows along the lung’s mesothelial lining. Patients may experience mild coughing, moderate chest pain, and difficulty breathing.
- Stage 2 (advanced localized): Cancer attacks nearby lymph nodes in this stage. Patients face fluid buildup, weight loss, moderate coughing, and shortness of breath.
- Stage 3 (regional spread): Even distant lymph nodes and other organs have been affected in this stage. Symptoms include severe chest pain and anemia.
- Stage 4 (distant metastasis): Tumors are now present in distant body parts and have encapsulated the lung/s completely, with all symptoms exacerbated.
This blog explains common mesothelioma symptoms and early warning signs of this rare form of cancer. Recognizing these telltale signs of mesothelioma helps you get early treatment and enhance your quality of life, especially if you’ve served in the army in the 20th century and were exposed to asbestos.
Veterans can contact skilled asbestos lawyers to get the healthcare benefits and financial compensation they deserve for their sacrifices. This compensation will help you afford mesothelioma’s costly treatment.