Mesothelioma is an often aggressive form of cancer that affects lung, stomach or heart tissue. Like all types of cancer, early detection of mesothelioma greatly increases a person’s chances of recovering completely. Unfortunately, though, mesothelioma typically has a long latency period that often makes early detection difficult.
Doctors use four stages to describe the severity of mesothelioma. In the first stage, small tumors appear in a localized place. Regular imaging tests and other screening methods may help you identify mesothelioma when it is in its first – and most treatable – stage. If you notice some other warning signs, however, you may also have an early stage of the disease.
Asbestos exposure is arguably the clearest indicator that you may have mesothelioma. If you or a family member has ever worked with or near asbestos, you must recognize that you are at a higher risk of developing serious medical complications. This is true even if the asbestos exposure happened decades ago, as mesothelioma symptoms may not appear for 10 to 50 years after contact with asbestos.
Until recently, military installations and equipment regularly exposed service members to dangerous asbestos fibers. Therefore, if you are a veteran, you may have an increased likelihood of developing mesothelioma, even if you think you never worked directly with asbestos.
The symptoms of mesothelioma are not exclusive to the disease. As a result, after developing symptoms, you may think you have another medical condition. Nonetheless, if you develop any of the following physical symptoms, you may have mesothelioma:
- Pain in your lungs, abdomen or chest
- Swelling or lumps in torso or extremities
- Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
- Nausea or unexplained weight loss
Mesothelioma often contributes to life-threatening health complications. Because early detection boosts your odds of making a full recovery, you must know whether you are at higher risk for developing this serious type of cancer.