Asbestos is a natural material that has been regulated by the government because of its link to mesothelioma. Mesothelioma affects the lungs, heart, or stomach lining and comes from exposure to asbestos fibers.
An overview of mesothelioma
Mesothelioma is a rare disease with around 3,000 cases annually in the United States. A person commonly lives 18 months after being diagnosed, but treatment can extend this time. The common life span for 55% of people diagnosed under the age of 50 is one year.
Pleural mesothelioma causes damage to the pleura of the lungs, accounting for 80%-90% of diagnoses. Peritoneal mesothelioma appears in the abdomen’s lining, and it is the second-most diagnosed form at 15% to 20%. Pericardial mesothelioma, which manifests in the heart’s soft tissue, is the rarest form, diagnosed at a rate of 1% to 2% of all meso cases.
What are the symptoms?
Mesothelioma develops slowly because the symptoms remain dormant for decades, causing diagnosis at later ages. Some common general symptoms of mesothelioma include shortness of breath, dry coughing, anemia, fatigue, unexplained weight loss, and decreased appetite.
Pleural mesothelioma may cause chest or lower back pain and facial or arm swelling. Some additional symptoms of peritoneal mesothelioma include abdominal pain, constipation, vomiting, nausea, and stomach fluid buildup. Pericardial mesothelioma may cause chest pain, irregular heartbeat, right shoulder pain, fluid around the heart, and heart murmurs. Sometimes pericardial mesothelioma symptoms are hard to diagnose because they may resemble other heart conditions.
While the relationship between asbestos exposure and pleural and peritoneal mesothelioma has been established, the link to pericardial mesothelioma isn’t as well-defined. Furthermore, its similarity to other conditions may cause a misdiagnosis, so individuals should consider seeking a second opinion for confirmation.
Employees in certain industries are at high risk for exposure, such as shipbuilders, plumbers, auto mechanics and electricians. Though the risk of asbestos exposure nowadays is lower than in years past, employers in these industries should still provide employees with adequate protective equipment.