About a Mesothelioma Diagnosis

By Contributing Writer

  • Overview

    About a Mesothelioma Diagnosis
    A mesothelioma diagnosis is frightening and confusing. Onset of symptoms may seem sudden, and the mesothelioma patient may wonder what caused the cancer. Once mesothelioma is confirmed, questions about treatment inevitably follow. And, of course, the patient as well as the entire medical community are concerned about longevity after mesothelioma diagnosis.
  • Significance

    The occurrence of mesothelioma is strongly correlated with occupational exposure to asbestos. An estimated 70 to 90 percent of all mesothelioma cases in the United States are diagnosed in people who've worked with or around asbestos fibers. Other mesothelioma cases have been reported in people who did not work with asbestos, but lived with someone who did. Only very rarely has mesothelioma been diagnosed in individuals without regular exposure to asbestos.
  • Identification

    Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral that was commonly used in building materials as late as the 1980s. Its strong fibers were used to strengthen roofing and flooring materials, and adhesives. It's heat and flame resistant qualities make it a very effective insulator. However, once asbestos was undeniably linked to mesothelioma and other serious health conditions, use of asbestos was mostly discontinued.

  • Function

    Asbestos fibers must be inhaled or ingested in significant quantities in order to pose a risk of mesothelioma or other health problems. Simply being around already installed materials containing asbestos does not pose a serious mesothelioma risk. So a person receiving a diagnosis of mesothelioma should assume that their exposure to asbestos was more than incidental. Those who are most at risk are people who work in the manufacture, installation or removal of asbestos containing materials without proper protective apparatus.
  • Features

    A mesothelioma diagnosis is likely to come decades asbestos exposure. While the cancer may have been growing unnoticed for a long time, obvious symptoms are not present until mesothelioma is somewhat advanced. Symptoms vary depending on the location of the cancer. Mesothelioma of the pleural mesothelium that lines the thoracic cavity may present with shortness of breath and chest pain due to accumulation of fluid in the pleura. Mesothelioma of the peritoneal mesothelium may cause abdominal pain, bowel obstruction, fever and blood disorders. Some patients with the advanced disease that has spread to other organs may have swelling in the neck and face, and difficulty when swallowing.
  • Considerations

    The diagnostic process for mesothelioma will include a thorough physical examination and taking of the patients medical history. Imaging of the chest and abdomen will be done by X-ray, CT scan or MRI. A lung function analysis may also be performed. However, a definitive mesothelioma diagnosis will be given only after a biopsy. During the biopsy the doctor will assess the stage of the cancer. The mesothelioma will be described as localized if it involves only the mesothelium. If other organs are involved, the cancer is described as advanced. Additional tests may be performed to evaluate advanced cancer, according to the location of the cancer.
  • Potential

    After a diagnosis of mesothelioma, treatment depends upon the location and stage of the cancer, and the health and age of the patient. Surgery to remove mesothelioma tumors and involved organs, radiation and chemotherapy are standard therapies. Some patients have survived as long as 10 years after mesothelioma diagnosis Unfortunately though, this is not the norm, and in general, prognosis is poor. The median survival rate for those diagnosed with mesothelioma is about one year. Clinical trials for new treatments are sponsored by the National Cancer Institute and also by the National Mesothelioma Research Foundation.

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