Over 20 million people in the U.S. are considered to be at risk for developing a form of malignant mesothelioma at some point in their lives, according to the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance. Mesothelioma is a particularly deadly type of cancer in which a tumor or multiple tumors develop in the tissue layer, known as the mesothelium, that covers the lungs, heart, stomach and other internal organs.
What is Mesothelioma
The great majority of cases are caused by exposure to asbestos, zeolites, and radiation. Risk can be compounded by lifestyle choices, certain genetic predispositions and even exposure to simian virus 40 (SV40), a virus that contaminated the polio vaccine from 1955 until 1961, exposing over 98 million people to SV40.
As with most types of cancer, early detection plays a critical role in prognosis and survival rates. However, since mesothelioma has a latency period of between 20 to 40 years, it can be easy to overlook your exposure risks and instead attribute the symptoms to other health conditions. If you have ever worked or lived in an environment where you were exposed to asbestos, it is critical to be extra vigilant of the symptoms of mesothelioma. If you were unknowingly exposed to asbestos at a job and are diagnosed with mesothelioma, you may even be entitled to compensation. A mesothelioma attorney can help provide some insight and determine if you may be entitled to a settlement. When you need an attorney for mesothelioma lawsuits there are quite many options online.
Types of mesothelioma cancers
This mesothelioma is the most common, occurring in the lungs and/or chest wall. Typically, this afflicts people who worked around asbestos and inadvertently inhaled some of the asbestos fibers.
Early symptoms include a persistent cough, painful breathing, difficulty breathing or shortness of breath, chest pain, wheezing, unexplained hoarseness of the voice, excessive sweating, unexplained weight loss, fatigue and difficulty swallowing. As pleural mesothelioma progresses, many experience chest wall pain, fluid surrounding the lungs, anemia and may even cough up some blood. Lower back pain, an unexplained fever and swelling of the arms and face have also been known to occur in some cases of pleural mesothelioma.
Peritoneal mesothelioma develops in the abdomen, more specifically in the peritoneum, the thin layer of tissue that covers the abdominal organs. This type of mesothelioma is less common, accounting for about 15 to 20 percent of diagnoses annually, and generally the prognosis is poor. Peritoneal mesothelioma is most often caused by ingesting asbestos.
Symptoms of this type of mesothelioma include severe stomach pain, abdominal swelling, loss of appetite, unexplained weight loss, constipation, nausea and vomiting. In some cases, epilepsy may even be considered a symptom of peritoneal mesothelioma. Other less common symptoms include intestinal obstruction, hypercoagulability, inflammatory lesions and night sweats.
Mesothelioma in the heart tissue is the second most rare type of mesothelioma cancer, occurring in around one percent of cases of mesothelioma. Since it is such an uncommon type of cancer, misdiagnosis is very common. Pericardial mesothelioma is often misdiagnosed as pericarditis or myocarditis as the symptoms are often presented in a similar manner.
Early symptoms of pericardial mesothelioma can include difficulty breathing, chest pain, irregular heart rhythm and coughing. Other symptoms may include fluid buildup around the heart, constrictive pericarditis, cardiac tamponade and pulmonary embolism.
In extremely rare cases, mesothelioma can develop in the testicles. This type of mesothelioma cancer develops in the lining of the testes, known as the tunica vaginalis and it is the rarest form of mesothelioma cancer. There are fewer than 100 cases of testicular mesothelioma in recorded medical history. Despite the rarity, the prognosis of testicular mesothelioma is better than other forms of this cancer, with an average of two years of life after treatment that includes surgery and chemotherapy.
Testicular mesothelioma is particularly difficult to diagnose, as there isn’t a particular set of symptoms unique to this type of cancer, aside from some scrotal swelling or an unusual but painless lump. It is often misdiagnosed, sometimes as a hernia or another more common condition, since testicular mesothelioma is so rare.