What mesothelioma symptoms and warning signs should a person look for?
As far as researchers know, only asbestos exposure causes mesothelioma. It is considered one of the rarest, most aggressive, and deadliest cancers.
Making matters worse, mesothelioma has an extremely long latency period.
Many victims have asbestos fibers in their bodies for decades, yet they show no mesothelioma symptoms or warning signs.
Furthermore, these victims usually have no lifestyle or genetic red flags that might indicate they will get cancer later. Therefore, doctors can’t use diagnostic tests or biological markers to identify who may be at the most risk.
To diagnose the disease, a physician has to do a biopsy, usually only done after identifying cancer symptoms. The testing to confirm mesothelioma is costly and requires both radiological testing and invasive tissue samples.
More on that below.
Mesothelioma’s survival rate is low, and treatment options are often limited. In contrast, an experienced asbestos exposure lawyer or “mesothelioma attorney” can file for compensation claims via multiple legal options.
Most states give injury victims or their families minimal time to act, usually two years.
Still, the delayed discovery rule extends the SOL in these cases, giving victims their day in court. Mesothelioma victims and family members typically have 1-6 years to file their claims after their diagnosis or death, depending on the state where they were exposed.
Victims can file a lawsuit or Asbestos Trust Fund Claims for direct or indirect asbestos exposure.
Direct exposure generally means they worked directly with asbestos or around it. Indirect exposure means they were exposed to asbestos by being around someone who worked with it, such as by washing their clothes.
General Cancer Symptoms and Warning Signs
Mesothelioma tumors are usually found in the lining surrounding the lungs, stomach, or heart.
The most common symptom is fluid building up around the lung, called pleural effusion.
It does not have the same effect on the body as other malignant tumors.
So, these victims may or may not have general early-warning cancer symptoms, such as:
- Extreme and unexplained weight loss,
- Constant fatigue,
- Trouble sleeping due to night sweats,
- Loss of appetite,
- New and persistent pain,
- Unexplained change in bowel habits, typically constipation or diarrhea, or an alternating combination of the two,
- Sensory problems, usually vision or hearing issues,
- Recurrent nausea or vomiting,
- Bloody stools and/or urine,
- Abnormal vaginal bleeding, especially after menopause, and
- Recurrent fever.
Additionally, mesothelioma victims usually have no apparent lifestyle or genetic markers. They often don’t smoke or drink, and there’s usually no family history of cancer.
The only non-medical marker is an at-risk job.
Usually, that job ended so long ago that victims don’t put two and two together. That’s especially true if the employer downplayed the risks of asbestos exposure, which was probably the case.
Mesothelioma Medical Symptoms
Early mesothelioma signs may not appear, but late warning signs are common.
Recognizing and properly responding to a late warning sign might literally be the difference between life and death.
During early-stage mesothelioma (Stage I and II), cancer cells are usually localized in one lung or even one part of one lung.
The limited affected area often means that traditional cancer treatments, mainly radiation, chemotherapy, and surgery, may slow the progression of the disease enough to give victims a handful of additional quality years. In some cases, they might survive even longer.
Prospects are bleak if the victim has late-stage mesothelioma (Stage III or IV).
At this point, cancer has usually spread to both lungs and near the heart. In most cases, it’s spread even further to the diaphragm, lining of the heart, larger sections of the chest wall, and lymph nodes located far from the lung’s lining.
Traditional treatments usually aren’t a viable option at this stage.
At most, they extend the victim’s life two or three years, and they would be a very painful two or three years.
There’s some hope.
Palliative treatments ease pain caused by the disease and have shown prognostic benefits in some cases.
Experimental therapies, which may become mainline treatments soon, are also available.
So, if the following symptoms appear, victims should immediately see their doctors and inform them of the possibility of mesothelioma.
- Painful coughing,
- Shortness of breath, even at rest,
- Unusual tissue lumps under the skin on your chest,
- Abdominal pain, and
- Severe abdominal swelling.
Other asbestos-exposure illnesses include pleural thickening and asbestosis. Asbestos fibers inflame the pleural lining around the lungs.
The heavier this lining is, the more difficult breathing becomes.
Asbestosis is a breathing disease that directly affects the lungs. Asbestos fibers burn airways. The scar tissue blocks them.
So, if a doctor says you don’t have mesothelioma, that’s good, but you aren’t clear. The doctor should also use airflow tests, X-rays, and other diagnostic tests to evaluate lung function.
Non-Medical Mesothelioma Diagnosis
The aforementioned mesothelioma medical warning signs often don’t appear until late-stage mesothelioma.
Additional Information on Mesothelioma
Unfortunately for victims, a medical diagnosis doesn’t do much good by that time. The end may come in a matter of months as opposed to a matter of years.
Fortunately for victims, mesothelioma victims also have non-medical symptoms. Generally, the most significant non-medical symptom is a prior job in one of the following areas:
- Asbestos miners,
- Shipyard workers,
- Demolition workers,
- Brake mechanics,
- Most military personnel,
- Insulators, and
- Home remodelers.
1980 is the rough cutoff date. During prior decades, construction companies put large amounts of asbestos into almost everything they built.
Building insulation contained asbestos because this fiber doesn’t conduct heat.
Other construction materials, such as ceiling tiles and drywall, contained asbestos for the same reason.
Today’s demolition and renovation workers often come into contact with yesterday’s asbestos.
The military typically used even more asbestos on both land and sea before 1980. Asbestos-lined gun parts to keep them from overheating. Asbestos protected ships’ boilers and ammunition dumps for the same reason.
Many don’t consider brake and auto mechanics when considering at-risk workers. However, brake pads contained asbestos until the mid-1980s.
A brief word about asbestos mining. This activity was legal in the United States until 2002. It’s still legal in many parts of the world.
Today, asbestos mining production exceeds one million tons a year. Russia provides more than half of the world’s asbestos.
People who lived with at-risk workers or near an asbestos hot spot, like a shipyard or an auto parts factory, are at risk.
This disease is very rare.
Many people who check all three of the above boxes (general cancer symptoms, mesothelioma-specific symptoms, and risky vocational background) don’t develop mesothelioma.
Only a doctor can tell for sure. Doctors typically use advanced diagnostic tests in this area, such as:
- X-Ray: This electromagnetic imaging device can diagnose respiratory abnormalities, including bronchitis and pneumonia. Often, doctors use chest X-rays to look for mesothelioma warning signs and determine if more tests are necessary.
- MRI: Magnetic Resonance Imaging uses a magnetic field and radio waves to create images of the body. These scans may also be used to identify the type and progression of the cancer.
- PET Scan: Positron Emission Tomography is a type of nuclear medicine scanning technique that uses a radioactive substance to obtain a 3D image of an area to assess organs and tissues. The scan can help determine if the cancer has metastasized (spread) beyond its origin.
- CT Scan: Computed Tomography machines are monitoring tests. They use X-rays to create images of an area from different angles to diagnose and monitor the extent of the disease.
If these tests find a tumor, the doctor performs a biopsy to determine if that tumor is malignant (cancerous) or benign (non-cancerous).
Benign tumors don’t go away independently but are much easier to treat.
Asbestos Exposure Lawyers and Medical Diagnosis Issues
These ongoing medical tests sound expensive, and they are.
Most group health insurance plans don’t cover injury-related conditions, which means the victim could be financially responsible for these staggering costs.
So, quite frankly, these victims need compensation to offset their medical bills.
To obtain the compensation these victims need and deserve, an experienced mesothelioma attorney can investigate their asbestos exposure and maximize their compensation.
Civil actions against asbestos providers lift the financial responsibility of the victim. Typically, companies are liable for the damages their defective products cause.
In most asbestos exposure cases, 10 to 30 asbestos product manufacturers are named as defendants.
Sometimes, asbestos is considered a design defect.
Providers knowingly used dangerous asbestos simply because it was cheap. Cross-contamination could be an issue as well.
Asbestos-laced talcum powder is a good example of a manufacturing defect. Some companies basically don’t care if their products are dangerous or not.
Most asbestos manufacturing and mining companies declared bankruptcy in the 1980s and 1990s when they could no longer conceal the hazards of asbestos, and Congress began passing strict asbestos control laws.
Typically, injury victims have no legal recourse against bankrupt companies. Asbestos victims are in a special category. Compensation from a large asbestos trust fund might be available.
Connect With A Successful National Asbestos Cancer Lawyer
Mesothelioma is usually fatal, but recognizing the warning signs helps extend quality of life.
For a free consultation with an experienced and successful lawyer in your area, please contact us at MesotheliomaAttorney.com or Paul Danziger Esq.
We do not charge upfront legal fees in these matters and only get paid if we successfully resolve your asbestos claim.