Mesothelioma is a deadly cancer caused by exposure to asbestos dust and fibers. The disease affects the thin membranes that line the lungs, abdominal cavity, and heart. The symptoms of this disease can take decades to develop fully and be recognizable. A rough estimate is that nearly one-third of the patients in the United States were initially exposed to asbestos during military service, with a particular concentration of cases among those who served in the Navy.
The government started regulating the use of asbestos after the 1970s. Before then, asbestos was used extensively as an insulating material in ships, building materials, and many products used in homes. Military veterans who served in the Navy, during or after World War II were at a greater risk of developing this condition, as well as associated diseases such as asbestosis. Even a single day of asbestos exposure is harmful and may lead to cancer in some people. And it is difficult to treat because its symptoms often go undiagnosed for some time because they mimic of symptoms of other, less harmful conditions. By the time an accurate diagnosis is made, the disease is often already in its late stages.
Mesothelioma symptoms depend on the specific location of the cancer. The most common form is called “pleural,” which is cancer of the pleura (the tissue surrounding the lungs). Mesothelioma symptoms of this type of cancer are associated with chest pain, breathlessness, painful coughing, and lumps of tissue under chest skin.
Sometimes the cancer attacks the tissue of the abdomen, in which case it is referred to as “peritoneal.” Symptoms of this peritoneal cancer include pain and swelling in the abdomen and unexplained tissue lumps in the abdomen. Symptoms of other forms of the cancer, such as the pericardial form, are unclear.
The most common mesothelioma symptoms – chest and/or abdominal pain, shortness of breath, coughing and swelling – tend to be mistaken for common respiratory and…