Top Questions After a Mesothelioma Diagnosis

Quick Summary

After a mesothelioma diagnosis, most patients have a lot of question about the disease. They also have questions about asbestos and how it causes mesothelioma. Here are answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about mesothelioma.

What Is Mesothelioma?

Mesothelioma is a rare cancer caused by inhaling or ingesting asbestos fibers. Mesothelioma can form in the linings of the lungs (pleura), abdomen (peritoneum) or heart (pericardium). At this time, mesothelioma has no cure and a poor prognosis, but specialists are making strides ofn noel therapies targeting mesothelioma cells.

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How Is Mesothelioma Diagnosed?

Most often, doctors identify mesothelioma because of other problems the disease causes, such as fluid buildup in the chest (pleural effusions). During an examination, doctors review genetics and medical history to figure out if more tests should be ordered and deciphered by specialists.

A history of asbestos exposure is a huge indicator for doctors to look for signs of mesothelioma specifically.

After suspecting mesothelioma, lab tests will be ordered, including biopsies—samples of tissue taken from the tumor site. Doctors then study these tissues under a microscope to determine the exact type of mesothelioma.

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Do Doctors Ever Misdiagnose Mesothelioma?

It is highly possible, as only specialists are qualified to diagnose mesothelioma patients. Of the several mesothelioma cell types, some resemble lung cancer strongly, while others in women look like ovarian cancer.

If you or a loved one think you may have been exposed to asbestos, talk with your doctor to get specialist attention.

Learn More About Mesothelioma Misdiagnosis

Can Smoking Cause Mesothelioma or Increase Chances of Getting it?

Smoking is never the cause of mesothelioma, though it can highly increase the chances of complications or risks of developing other serious diseases.

Studies show that mesothelioma patients who are smokers tend to have a better outcome after quitting smoking than those who don’t quit.

Is Mesothelioma the Same as Lung Cancer?

No, they are two separate forms of cancer. When looking at the different cells under a microscope, there are important differences. Lung cancer typically grows with defined boundaries in individual masses.

Mesothelioma originally starts as small nodule tumors scattered in the mesothelial lining. Eventually, these nodules grow together to form a sheath-like tumor surrounding the lung or other organs.

What Is the Typical Age at a Mesothelioma Diagnosis?

Mesothelioma is often diagnosed 10 to 50 years after initial asbestos exposure. Commonly, patients aren’t diagnosed until around or after the age of 65. Before this age, women are more likely to be diagnosed with mesothelioma, but men are much more likely to suffer from mesothelioma in general.

Can Mesothelioma Be Prevented?

The best way to prevent mesothelioma is to avoid exposure to asbestos. By taking proper safety precautions in work settings where asbestos is present, the risk of ingesting asbestos fibers is significantly decreased and possibly negated.

If you are unsure about proper safety precautions, speak with employers about safety standards, training, and the mandatory warning signs they’ve posted.

What Jobs Involve Asbestos Exposure?

In the United States, workers from a wide range of trades and industries are unknowingly exposed to asbestos. Safety standards and regulations require industries and businesses to post warning signs and provide proper safety training in jobs that involve asbestos or materials including asbestos.

Common occupations exposed to asbestos include:

  • U.S. Navy Veterans
  • Oil refinery workers
  • Shipbuilders
  • Automobile mechanics
  • Carpenters
  • Construction workers
  • Steelworkers
  • Railroad workers

Learn More About Asbestos Exposure Occupations

What Are Common Mesothelioma Symptoms?

Early warning signs of mesothelioma may include:

  • A cough that doesn’t go away
  • Shortness of breath
  • Blood in mucus coughed up from the lungs
  • Swelling of the face or neck veins
  • Tiredness
  • Trouble breathing or swallowing
  • Unexplained loss of appetite or weight loss

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What Should I do if I Think I Have Mesothelioma?

Schedule an appointment with your doctor immediately. After reviewing your genetic history, possible risk of exposure to asbestos, and symptoms, your doctor will order tests to determine if a specialist should be consulted.

What Treatment Options Are Available for Mesothelioma?

Options for mesothelioma treatment based on specialist recommendations could include:

  • Chemotherapy—Anti-cancer drugs that kill mesothelioma cells.
  • Radiation therapy—High-energy rays that scramble mesothelioma cells’ DNA and prevent them from multiplying.
  • Surgery—Physically removing tumors through open surgery.
  • Palliative treatments—Improving patient quality of life by easing symptoms.

Doctors often recommend a combination of treatments in an approach called multimodal therapy.

Learn More About Mesothelioma Treatments

Where Can I Find out About Clinical Trials?

Clinical trials testing new and novel therapies are being conducted across the country. Clinical trials are run by professional researchers looking for new ways of diagnosing and treating mesothelioma.

Clinical trials take place in cancer centers nation-wide and many are actively recruiting right now.

Learn More About Mesothelioma Clinical Trials

Should I Get a Second Opinion?

It’s important to get a second opinion for the following reasons:

  • To feel comfortable with the treatment decisions
  • Not being able to see a cancer specialist/expert
  • Being diagnosed with a rare cancer type
  • Have several opinions on treatment options

Learn More About Getting a Second Opinion

Where Is Asbestos Found?

Despite its use being mitigated, asbestos can still be found in:

  • Insulating board
  • Ceiling or floor cavities
  • Textured coatings
  • Roofing felt
  • Certain cement products
  • Composites, textiles, and floor tiles

It is important to leave any sample-taking to professionals, as improper handling can lead to exposing yourself to asbestos if you haven’t already been exposed.

Is Asbestos Banned?

Asbestos is a confirmed carcinogen in humans but is still used in the United States and is not currently banned. Several organizations are working to get it banned, but usage continues under strict regulation by the government.

Where Can I Find Mesothelioma Support?

Speaking with healthcare professionals and specialists is an excellent way to learn how to deal with a confirmed diagnosis and the resources available to treat, manage, and emotionally handle the reality of life with mesothelioma.

For more information, contact our Patient Advocates today.

View Author and Sources

  1. University of Rochester Medical Center, “Malignant Mesothelioma, Frequently Asked Questions.” Retreived from: Accessed February 21, 2018.
  2. Health and Safety Executive, “Common Materials That May Contain Asbestos.” Retrieved from: Accessed February 21, 2018.

Last modified: December 18, 2018