If you've ever worked with asbestos, you're likely to be aware of the risk of mesothelioma. It's an incurable form of cancer that takes the form of a tumor in the lining of your lungs, stomach, heart, or other organs. The primary cause of mesothelioma is exposure to asbestos. When a material containing asbestos is broken, asbestos dust floats up into the air, and it then settles in your lungs when you breathe and your mouth when you swallow, causing this aggressive disease. There are less common causes of mesothelioma as well, such as genetic predisposition and radiation exposure. Once the dangers of asbestos became known, many ill employees sued for damages, causing some of their employers to go bankrupt. However, these firms were still legally obligated to create trust funds for any future victims of asbestos exposure, meaning that whether or not the employer in question is still operating, you can recover compensation if you become ill due to asbestos exposure.

Symptoms

It can take decades for symptoms of mesothelioma to appear. There are no symptoms of the tumors' growth until they begin to affect other parts of the body, such as by pressing on nerves or other organs. In a person with stage 1 or stage 2 mesothelioma, there is a chance that there will be enough fluid around the lungs to cause shortness of breath or a cough.

As the disease progresses, the symptoms become more clear. You may be fatigued, have muscle weakness, or experience pain in your chest or abdomen. Issues breathing, such as a dry cough that won't go away, shortness of breath, or difficulty taking a deep breath are also common indicators. As this cancer can be located in different parts of the body, some symptoms change depending on where it's located. Tumors in the lungs, or pleural mesothelioma, can cause a patient to cough up blood, have chest pain and shortness of breath, and experience full-body aches. Tumors in the stomach, or peritoneal mesothelioma, can cause weight loss, bloating, fatigue, and hernias. One of the rarest forms of this disease is the pericardial form, where tumors form near the heart. These will cause chest pains, heart palpitations, and fever.

Many of the symptoms are easily attributed to other illnesses, so it is important to keep in mind any potential asbestos exposure and alert your doctor. It's also important not to ignore symptoms just because they're not too dangerous; this can give the disease time to spread into different parts of the body.

Treatment

While mesothelioma is incurable, treatments are available that can improve a patient's prognosis and even potentially help them achieve partial or complete remission. Treatments will vary depending on the location of the cancer. In the lungs, cases caught at an early stage can benefit from surgery to remove the tumors. Depending on how far the disease has spread, patients may also have one lung removed entirely. Another common treatment is chemotherapy. These treatments can also be combined with radiation to control the symptoms and reduce the risk of recurrence.

For tumors in the stomach, chemotherapy and radiation are powerful tools. Hyperthermic intraoperative peritoneal chemotherapy, or HIPEC, is one of the most effective ways to treat this form of the disease; with this treatment, heated chemotherapy is pumped directly into the abdomen to reduce the tumors. Cytoreductive surgery may also be performed to remove as much cancerous tissue as possible. These treatments can be combined to form a comprehensive treatment plan.

The field of mesothelioma research is always advancing, with clinical trials running all the time to improve the treatment of the disease. A host of experimental treatments may be successful in a patient, such as immunotherapy, which boosts your immune system to fight the cells, and epigenetic therapy, which repairs DNA to stop cancerous cells from replicating. While these treatments have shown mixed success, research continues to improve the prognoses of patients.