Mesothelioma – What you Need to Know

Your little angel’s recurring chest pains might not be their heart. Chest pain is also a common symptom of a very rare form of cancer called mesothelioma. While there are treatments available with various degrees of success, the best course of action is keeping your kid away from mesothelioma’s root cause: asbestos exposure.

About Mesothelioma

Mesothelioma is an asbestos-related form of cancer that affects the mesothelial cells in the lining of the lungs (75% of cases), abdomen (20%), heart (1%), or testes (<1%). The primary cause of this aggressive and highly fatal cancer is asbestos exposure.

Airborne asbestos particles enter the lungs, heart, or abdomen and attach to the organs’ lining spurring inflammation in mesothelial cells. Because of constant inflammation, a tumor may grow on the damaged cells leading to cancer.

There are four types of mesothelioma based on the organ affected:

– Pleural mesothelioma (the lungs are affected)

– Peritoneal mesothelioma (it affects the abdomen)

– Pericardial mesothelioma (the heart is affected)

– Mesothelioma of tunica vaginalis (the patient’s testes are affected.)

The people with the highest risk of developing the condition include construction workers, firefighters, power plant personnel, army veterans, servicemen, and any other people that handle large quantities of asbestos for a living or that live in buildings or in other types of environments with high asbestos exposure.

The spouses and children of those people are also at risk even if they weren’t directly exposed to the fibrous mineral. Secondhand exposure is enough to make them sick.

Men are more likely to develop the condition than women (75% vs. 25%) and the average age of patients is 69. Fortunately, mesothelioma is a very rare form of cancer in America, with just 3,000 new cases diagnosed every year. To put things into perspective, there are roughly 1,700,000 new cancer cases in the U.S. every year.

Mesothelioma Symptoms

Symptoms vary depending on the organ affected. If the lungs are affected, you may experience one or several of the symptoms:

·         Chest pain (the pain may migrate to the lower back region)

·         Dry cough

·         No longer being able to breathe freely

·         Trouble swallowing

·         Hoarse voice

If the mesothelioma tumor is located in the abdomen (peritoneal mesothelioma), you may experience:

·         Constipation

·         Bloating

·         Vomiting

·         Swelling of the abdomen

In pericardial mesothelioma, the most common symptoms include:

·         Chest pain

·         Shortness of breath

·         Irregular heartbeat

·         Unusual noise between heartbeats

Other symptoms, regardless of the type of mesothelioma, include fatigue, fever, muscle weakness, wheezing, and night sweating.

How Deadly Is the Disease?

While there are mesothelioma survivors out there, the disease is quite deadly. The odds of survival are up to 21 months (in early stages) or around a year (in more advanced stages). Just four in 10 patients make it the first year. Pleural mesothelioma’s survival rate is 73% in the first year and drops to 12% after five years. Peritoneal is a bit less deadly, with 92% of patients surviving the first year and 52% surviving after five years.

Mesothelioma Treatment Costs

Mesothelioma treatment costs are very similar to those of lung cancer. The total cost of chemotherapy as a first-line response may sit at $40,000, but that sum can vary depending on the drug used and time of treatment. If surgery is required, you may need to shell out $26,000 every month. A single course of radiation therapy may cost $9,000.

The treatment is quite hefty but fortunately, there are ways of getting financial assistance if your insurance doesn’t cover all the costs. For instance, if you take your mesothelioma case to an experienced mesothelioma attorney, he or she could settle your claim at more than $1 million without bringing the case to court. There are also non-profits that could give you compensation through trust funds dedicated to mesothelioma patients, but you will need to qualify for it, and the process might take a bit longer.

Don’t turn a blind eye to your child’s chest pains as they might hide a much more serious condition than physical exertion or muscle strain. One of the most common symptoms of mesothelioma is chest pain, and the sooner you get a diagnosis, the higher the chances of survival are. Also, if the doctor has given you the grim news, don’t despair. With the proper treatment, survival rates can climb up to 90%, and there are always people and organizations that can help you get the much-needed financial assistance for the treatment.

Image credit: Annie Spratt on Unsplash

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