Mesothelioma is a difficult cancer to manage, and many times is caught late because it's slow to appear. It causes fluid buildup in your lungs, heart, and abdomen, causing pain in your chest, back, and stomach, and many times seems like symptoms of the flu. It can also cause fatigue and weight loss for those suffering from it.
But what causes mesothelioma? Why is it so slow to appear? Well, it's caused by exposure to asbestos. In order to understand mesothelioma and the effects it can have on your body, you have to understand what asbestos does to your body.
How Asbestos Harms Your Body
Asbestos is a generic term used to describe 6 different commercially used silicate minerals. These 6 minerals are broken down into 2 groups, the amphobile fibers, and the serpentine fibers. Both amphobiles and serpentines were used widely in many types of industries for years. All types of asbestos fibers are widely recognized as harmful substances when ingested that is capable of causing mesothelioma and other diseases. Asbestos products were commonly used in shipyards, aboard Navy ships, in manufacturing plants, refineries, construction sites, and automotive garages, among many other locations.
Asbestos fibers are tiny enough to be breathed in, and they are very sharp. They can get stuck in your body, and your immune system can't rid itself of them. Asbestos is very dangerous to the human body, but the effects of it aren't usually seen until 10-50 years later. The long period between exposure to asbestos and the development of asbestos disease, known as the latency period, explains why individuals who were exposed to asbestos decades ago are still developing asbestos-related diseases today. The symptoms aren't easily recognizable and can be excused for other less dangerous health issues. This makes it difficult for patients to recognize they have been exposed until it becomes very severe and life-altering. Most people aren't even aware that they've been exposed to asbestos until many years later since so many common products contained asbestos without any warnings to the person using them.
Asbestos in the Lungs
When asbestos fibers are inhaled, the lungs are most affected by it. It can cause noncancerous and cancerous diseases of the lungs. Many diseases are linked to asbestos exposure, including:
- Mesothelioma: A rare form of cancer that attacks the protective membrane around the lungs, abdominal organs, and the heart.
- Lung cancer
- Larynx cancer
- Kidney cancer
- Asbestosis: Severe scarring of the lungs that isn't malignant but can still be fatal.
- Asbestos pleural disease: Similar to Asbestosis, but it happens in the lining of your lungs rather than the lungs themselves.
The most obvious sign of asbestos-related illness is shortness of breath. At first, it begins with shortness of breath after exertion, but over the years, it progresses to difficulty breathing even while your body is in a resting state. The latter is typically when someone realizes something is very wrong and they see a doctor.
How Asbestos Causes Mesothelioma
When asbestos is inhaled and gets caught in the lungs, it can cause fluid buildup in the lungs, abdomen, and heart. When the fluid builds up in the lungs, it's known as pleural effusion, and it impedes breathing as it limits the expansion of a patient's lung. Asbestos fibers that remain in the lungs can cause genetic mutations to the cells in the lungs, which is what leads to mesothelioma and lung cancer.
It causes a number of physical symptoms. It can also affect a patient's mental stability, which may lead them to experience anxiety, sadness, or depression.
In addition to causing mesothelioma, the stress on the airways and lungs can often lead to bad cases of bronchitis and pneumonia. These infections can be especially life-threatening to mesothelioma patients as their bodies are already under a lot of stress. When this happens, a patient needs immediate medical attention.
Mesothelioma tumors are typically large masses that like to blend in with healthy tissue but will cause pain under the rib cage and unusual lumps under the skin on the patient's chest. It's not uncommon for patients to suffer pain in their lower back and the sides of their chest because of the pressure of the tumors.
Mesothelioma can also really strain the heart. As the fluid builds up, it causes the heart to work harder, causing chest pain and fatigue. Pericardial mesothelioma patients usually experience the most severe cancer pain.
When Mesothelioma Spreads
If mesothelioma tumors aren't treated or don't respond to treatment and they start growing uncontrollably, the cancerous cells begin to spread to other parts of the body, causing new tumors. This is known as metastasis. When this spread happens, it is still considered to be mesothelioma, as that was the original cause. Stage 3 and stage 4 mesothelioma are considered metastatic mesothelioma. Finding a specialist who can diagnose and treat is critical, no matter the stage.
Preventing metastasis is essential to prolonging a patient's life expectancy. If you have been exposed to asbestos during your life and you are experiencing any of these symptoms, you should contact a doctor immediately. Catching these diseases early is essential to effective treatment of all of these diseases.
What to Do if You or a Loved One Suffer from Mesothelioma
A positive outlook and affirming thoughts will go a long way in improving a patient's health. Whether you or a loved one are suffering from mesothelioma, try to do all you can to maintain a positive outlook and to find an emotional support group.
If you or a loved one have been diagnosed with mesothelioma and need legal help, fill out our form for a free case evaluation. We want to help you get the compensation you deserve for what you're enduring. Since the early 1970s, we've been a respected national leader in the practice of asbestos and mesothelioma litigation, and our highly-experienced attorneys want to be there for you every step of the way as you navigate this difficult time.