Every year 2,000 to 3,000 people are diagnosed with mesothelioma, a type of cancer, in the United States. However, people don’t usually develop the disease naturally. Most mesothelioma cases occur after exposure to asbestos, a set of 6 naturally occurring silicates used in building materials. While many countries have banned the use of asbestos in new construction projects, older buildings still contain traces of the material, which was often used as a type of insulation. Whenever old structures are disturbed or knocked down, asbestos fibers enter the air. Because they are so thin and small, these fibers easily enter the lungs and mouth of any unprotected person or animal nearby. According to the National Institutes of Health, at least 11 million people were exposed to asbestos between 1940 and 1978. Because most symptoms take 20 to 50 years to develop, these 11 million individuals are just now beginning to realize the effect their jobs or environments had on them so many years ago. If you worked in construction, or know you were exposed to asbestos on a regular basis, look for these early warning signs of cancer.
Mesothelioma can develop in one of three places. Pleural mesothelioma affects the lungs. If you experience any of these symptoms, see your doctor as soon as possible:
- Shortness of breath
- Chest or lower-back pain
- Wheezing or hoarseness
- Excessive perspiration
- Inexplicable weight loss
- Trouble swallowing
- Swelling of the face or arms
About 70% to 90% of mesothelioma cases affect the lining around the lungs. Some people who experience these symptoms mistake them for more common diseases, such as the flu. However, if you’ve been exposed to asbestos, it’s best to ensure these aren’t signs of something more threatening.
This type of cancer affects the abdomen, or the area around your stomach and intestines. Only about 10% to 30% of mesothelioma cases affect this area, but it is the second-most reported. Look for the following early signs that your digestive region is affected:
- Stomach pain
- Abdominal swelling or fluid buildup
- Inexplicable weight loss
Again, these may seem like nothing more than the symptoms of a cold, flu, or food poisoning. However, if they’re unusual, persistent, or you know you’ve been exposed to carcinogens like asbestos, talk to your doctor about mesothelioma.
In about 1% of recorded cases, mesothelioma can affect the lining around the heart. While you may have preexisting heart conditions or a history of familial heart problems, consider whether or not you may have inhaled asbestos in your workplace or at home. Look for the following early signs of pericardial mesothelioma:
- Difficulty breathing
- Chest pains
While all mesothelioma cases are somewhat treatable, pericardial symptoms can be deadly in later stages. Tumors in the heart could cause your cardiac system to fail completely.
In less than 1% of recorded cases, cancer could develop in the tunica vaginalis, or the membrane that covers the testes. There is only one consistent sign of this type of cancer: lumps. If you’ve been exposed to asbestos, check your testicles regularly for irregularities or changes in shape. This could be an indication of mesothelioma.
From 1999 to 2013, this type of cancer killed 37,000 people. Because the symptoms can develop so late or are easily mistaken for something else, mesothelioma has a chance to spread to other areas of the body, making it impossible to treat. However, if you catch the disease early, your doctor can treat the cancer with radiation, surgery, chemotherapy, or some combination of the three. Keep an eye on your health and see your physician if there is even a small chance you’ve been exposed to asbestos.
If you’ve already been diagnosed after exposure to asbestos, contact one of our Pennsylvania mesothelioma attorneys. We can help you determine who might be responsible for your condition. Call us at (888) 498-3023 or fill out our online form to discuss your case.