The following article contains important information taken directly from The Mesothelioma Center and Asbestos.com. Seniors and their loved ones should know the symptoms and treatment regarding mesothelioma. For more information, visit their website here.
What is Mesothelioma?
Many Americans may not be familiar with mesothelioma, as is the case with most rare diseases.
Doctors diagnose approximately 3,000 new cases of the rare cancer each year in the U.S. There are four types of mesothelioma, but the vast majority of cases develop in the lining of the lungs, known as the pleura.
Mesothelioma is an aggressive, incurable cancer with a generally poor prognosis; however, there are treatment options for mesothelioma that can help improve a patient’s quality of life and possibly improve their survival.
How Does Someone Get Mesothelioma?
Mesothelioma is known as an occupational cancer. Exposure to asbestos is the leading cause of the disease.
Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral once used heavily in the construction and manufacturing industries because of its versatility and fire-resistant properties. Breathing in or ingesting microscopic asbestos fibers starts a chain of physical and metabolic events that can lead to cancer and other serious conditions.
Because asbestos exposure is generally linked to male-dominated work settings, such as factories, shipyards and construction sites, the cancer affects men three to four times more than women.
Another unique aspect of mesothelioma is its long latency period. It can take 20-50 years between first exposure to asbestos and the appearance of symptoms — a main reason why the cancer predominately affects seniors.
People older than 60 years of age are 10 times more likely to develop mesothelioma than people younger than 40.
How Do You Get Diagnosed?
Diagnosis is similar to most cancers. However, because mesothelioma is so rare and carries symptoms that mirror other cancers and less serious illnesses, it is often misdiagnosed.
Cancer specialists typically use a combination of blood tests, imaging tests and biopsies to accurately confirm a mesothelioma diagnosis. Oncologists will then pinpoint the disease by using X-rays, CT scans, MRIs and PET scans.
Most patients get their diagnosis within two or three months after symptoms arise.
The most common mesothelioma symptoms are difficulty breathing, dry cough and chest pain. Someone with a history of asbestos exposure who experiences these symptoms is at high risk for mesothelioma and should consult a doctor immediately.
What to Do After You’re Diagnosed
Caring for a mesothelioma patient is no easy task.
Symptoms resemble those of other types of lung-related diseases and intensify as the cancer progresses. Through symptoms associated with the disease and common treatments such as chemotherapy, patients commonly experience fatigue, chest pain, respiratory complications and trouble eating and sleeping.
Because the cancer mostly affects seniors, pre-existing health issues, such as diabetes, COPD or kidney and bladder problems, can make living with mesothelioma even more difficult.
If you or a loved one is diagnosed with mesothelioma, finding a caregiver or senior care facility is an important early step.
Having a trained professional to assist with daily tasks (personal hygiene, meal preparation, housekeeping, etc.) and help manage appointment and medication schedules can be greatly beneficial to a patient and their family.
Worsening symptoms may limit a mesothelioma patient’s ability to get around easily. Dysphagia (trouble swallowing), laryngeal nerve palsy (hoarseness), Horner’s syndrome (nerve damage to the face) and hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) can all have a significant impact on a patient’s day-to-day life.
Elder care professionals can help make the transition easier for the patient and their family. Whether it’s an in-home nurse or a team of caregivers at an assisted living or nursing home facility, having professional help is a significant advantage after a diagnosis. It can also act as a useful support system for a patient, greatly improving their way of life with daily motivation, companionship and assistance.
Mesothelioma is a terrible disease and a diagnosis can be devastating, but the patient and their family don’t have to go through it alone.