Introduction to Mesothelioma: What is it?
Mesothelioma is a rare form of cancer that affects the thin membrane surrounding various organs in the body. It is most commonly found in the lining of the lungs, but can also affect the lining around the chest, abdomen, heart and other organs. In the United States, there have been over 45,000 cases of mesothelioma reported. Though it is a rare form of cancer, its incidence rate is increasing, and it is becoming an emerging health concern.
Causes of Mesothelioma
The primary cause of mesothelioma is exposure to asbestos. Asbestos is an extremely durable fiber and was commonly used in building materials, insulation, home furnishings and other products until the 1970s. Exposure to asbestos fibers can cause the body to develop mesothelioma—even one or two fibers are enough to cause the cancer to develop.
Risk Factors of Mesothelioma
Because of the primary cause of mesothelioma, the most significant risk factor is exposure to asbestos. People who worked in the manufacturing, construction, shipbuilding, and other industrial professions are at higher risk due to their extended and frequent contact with asbestos in their workplace. Additionally, individuals who have been exposed to asbestos in their home may also be at risk of developing mesothelioma.
Symptoms of Mesothelioma
Mesothelioma generally does not produce any symptoms in the early stages, and it is difficult to detect until the cancer has progressed. Common symptoms include shortness of breath, chest pain and a dry cough. Mesothelioma may also cause abdominal pain, nausea and weight loss.
In order to properly diagnose mesothelioma, several tests must be performed to confirm the presence of the cancer. These tests include:
- Physical Exam
- Chest X-ray
- CT Scan
In addition, a doctor will also use CT scans and other imaging tests to determine if the cancer has spread or metastasized to other parts of the body.
Living with Mesothelioma
Living with mesothelioma is difficult, but with proper care and support from family and friends, it is possible to manage the symptoms and prolong a patient’s life expectancy.Most people diagnosed with mesothelioma opt for treatment, ranging from surgery and chemotherapy to radiation and targeted drug therapy. The treatment plan is tailored to the individual patient’s needs and the type and stage of their mesothelioma.
Treatment of Mesothelioma
The major goal of treatment is to reduce symptoms and, with early diagnosis, potentially cure the cancer. Depending on the type and stage of mesothelioma, a physician may recommend surgery to remove the cancerous tumor and surrounding tissue. In some cases, chemotherapy and radiation may be used to shrink or control the cancerous cells. Additionally, there are also treatments available to improve a patient’s quality of life and help them to cope with their diagnosis.
Coping with Mesothelioma
Living with mesothelioma can be incredibly difficult, both physically and emotionally. While treatments are available, it is important to remember that everyone’s journey with cancer is different, so there is no one-size-fits-all approach. For managing day-to-day life with mesothelioma, it is important to focus on self-care. This means taking time for activities that make you feel good, such as reading, engaging in hobbies, listening to music, or getting outside and enjoying nature. Additionally, seeking out emotional and social support is important, as connecting with family, friends, and support groups can provide a sense of comfort.
Supportive Services for Living with Mesothelioma
Living with mesothelioma can be extremely difficult, and this is why supportive services are so important. These services can help cancer patients receive the emotional and practical support they need to live with mesothelioma on a day-to-day basis. Common supportive services include:
- Social Workers: Social workers can provide emotional support and guidance for cancer patients and their families. They can also provide assistance with medical and financial concerns.
- Financial Assistance: Mesothelioma patients may need to access financial assistance or other resources to help cope with their diagnosis.
- Rehabilitation and Therapy: Rehabilitation therapy can help mesothelioma patients manage their symptoms and improve their overall quality of life.
- Caregiver Support: Caregivers play an important role in caring for mesothelioma patients.
Looking toward the Future with Mesothelioma
Though living with mesothelioma can be challenging, there is hope. Researchers are continuing to make progress in understanding this rare form of cancer, and as treatments and supportive services continue to evolve, mesothelioma patients can look toward the future with optimism.
In conclusion, mesothelioma is a rare and aggressive form of cancer that can be difficult to live with. It is important for those diagnosed with the disease to remember that they are not alone, and that there are supportive services and treatments available to help them cope. With early detection and prompt treatment, mesothelioma patients may be able to extend their life expectancy and live with the disease.