By far, the form of lung cancer most often attributed to asbestos exposure is malignant mesothelioma. This rare form of lung cancer can remain dormant in the body for decades before symptoms appear. In fact, cases of mesothelioma are often not identified until a patient has already begun to see a doctor regarding their symptoms. Though it is difficult to detect mesothelioma early, there are several precautions that can be taken to detect signs of the disease as early as possible.
- Get regular scans. Some physicians have recommended that people who have been exposed to asbestos regularly undergo testing to catch changes in the body early on. In particular, tests such as chest x-rays and computed tomography (CT) scans can be used to detect signs of mesothelioma or lung cancer. It is not clear yet how effective this is for early mesothelioma detection.
- Check blood levels. Doctors have recently discovered that people that suffer from mesothelioma tend to have higher levels of osteopontin and soluable mesothelin-related peptides in their blood. As it stands, monitoring these levels is primarily used as a way to keep track of the course of the disease in a mesothelioma patient, but they may one day be used as a means of detecting the cancer earlier on.
- Know the symptoms. Most all cases of mesothelioma are only identified once the person has gone to see his or her doctor. It is important to recognize these signs and symptoms early on and promptly seek treatment. Although many of the symptoms on this list are common to many other less dangerous illnesses, it is important to pay special attention to them if you have ever been exposed to asbestos:
- Pain in the lower back or on the side of the chest
– Shortness of breath
– Weight Loss
– Trouble swallowing
– Swelling of the face and arms
– Muscle weakness
- Don’t put off seeing your doctor. If your doctor sees any sign that could point to asbestos lung cancer or mesothelioma, he or she should administer a physical examination to get more information. Some of these signs include a buildup of fluid in the chest or abdominal cavities or in some cases, in the sac around the heart called the pericardial effusion. In some very rare cases, fluid buildup will occur in the groin and be mistaken for some other issue, like a hernia. CT, PET and MRI scans may also be necessary to determine the presence of mesothelioma cancer.
Due to the slow development of mesothelioma lung cancer, the progression of symptoms may be too slow to detect early on. This makes it all the more important to get regular health checks with your doctor, as well as be aware of your body on a regular basis. If you are concerned that you are experiencing symptoms, call your doctor immediately.