A recent news article from Dr. Tipster takes a closer looks at mesothelioma. As many people know, mesothelioma is a very rare from of cancer that is almost exclusively caused by exposure (usually at the workplace) to deadly asbestos fibers. Once inhaled, it can take between 20 and 50 years for these fibers to metastasize into a deadly form of cancer known as malignant pleural mesothelioma.
One of the first questions many people ask is how is mesothelioma diagnosed? Unfortunately, mesothelioma is very difficult to diagnose until the disease is in an advanced stage, and the patient has only very short time left to live. Many people who finally do start noticing symptoms do not go to the doctor right away, because they mistake the symptoms, such as stomachache and shortness of breath, for a less serious illness. The vast majority of patients are diagnosed with mesothelioma within a few months after they first start experiencing symptoms.
Our Boston mesothelioma attorneys know the first thing that happens when a patient complains of mesothelioma symptoms is a physical exam and medical history focusing on occupational exposure to asbestos. Doctors will then typically perform a Pulmonary Function Test (PFT) to see how a patient’s lungs are working. This is the test where you typically have a series of candles on a computer screen and are told to blow them out and to blow as hard as you can.
Doctors will also take blood tests, because white blood cell counts tend to be elevated when a patient has cancer. Doctors can also order a chest x-ray to see if any tumors are visible on the radiograph. At this point, other scans such as an MRI, CT scan, and PET scan may be ordered. Once a tumor is found, it can be established as mesothelioma as opposed to lung cancer with a biopsy and laboratory analysis under a high-powered microscope.
One question people have is how dangerous is asbestos to humans. Asbestos is not generally harmful to humans when it is in the construction materials of a building, unless the building is starting to fall apart. Once asbestos is crumbling, it becomes what is known as friable asbestos, and this is very dangerous, because it is emitting a lot of dust. The dust contains asbestos fibers that, when inhaled, can become embedded in a patient’s deep lung tissue, as well as other organs, such as the abdomen or the chest cavity. This outer layer of tissue in which they often land is known as the mesothelium, which gives its name to the deadly form of cancer.
In addition to malignant pleural mesothelioma, exposure to asbestos can also cause lung cancer, since the material is a known carcinogen, and it can also cause scarring to the lung tissue. If this scarring is bad enough, it results in a disease known as asbestosis that can be deadly if not treated regularly. Asbestos exposure can also result in serious respiratory illness similar to Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) often seen in long-time smokers.
If you or a loved one is diagnosed with mesothelioma in Massachusetts, call for a free and confidential appointment at (617) 777-7777.
An Overview on Mesothelioma, September 25, 2015, Dr. Tipster
More Blog Entries:
Asbestos In City Buildings Poses Risk, August 12, 2014, Boston Mesothelioma Layers Blog