Straight Talk about Mesothelioma, a blog series created by Michael T. Milano, M.D., Ph.D., a radiation oncology specialist, as a resource for mesothelioma patients and their loved ones.
Many patients are surprised to have a conversation about mesothelioma with their doctor. Many of them have never even heard the word “mesothelioma” prior to being diagnosed.
Typically, patients diagnosed with mesothelioma first visit their primary care doctor, as mesothelioma symptoms are easily confused with other, less serious illnesses. Consider, for example, just a few of the symptoms of mesothelioma:
- Shortness of breath
- Persistent cough
- Chest pain
- Lower back pain
- Abdominal swelling
- Chills and fever
- Decreased appetite
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You can see how it would be easy to mistake such symptoms for the flu or even a bad cold. To further complicate matters, some patients don’t experience symptoms at all, but rather wind up requiring further testing as a result of a routine physical. In some cases, that testing results in a diagnosis of mesothelioma.
While there is still no known cure for this aggressive asbestos-related disease, research is ongoing at some of the leading medical facilities in the country.
Those at High Risk for Mesothelioma
One of the many challenges of mesothelioma is its ability to lie dormant for years or even decades before symptoms occur. I encourage anyone who could be at risk to get a complete physical exam. Those at high risk include:
- People who worked in industries known to use asbestos-containing products. Construction and plumbing work, roofing, and automobile manufacturing are just a few of the many industries that have a high risk of asbestos exposure.
- People who served in the military, especially the U.S. Navy.
- People who lived with or had ongoing contact with those in high-risk professions.
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The Importance of Early Detection
While we don’t yet have a cure for mesothelioma, we are making great strides in both slowing its progression and managing it. One certainty in battling this complex disease is that the earlier the disease is detected, the more treatment options are available. If you (or someone you care about) suspect you were exposed to asbestos, even in the distant past, I urge you to see a doctor immediately. Your good health depends on it.
Next blog in this series: “Prepare For Your First Office Visit”