The common, early mesothelioma symptoms are shortness of breath and chest pain. The lungs develop scar tissue and the lungs gradually lose elasticity. This makes breathing increasingly difficult.
Asbestos fibers inhaled into the lung settle deep in the lung and cause scars to form. The condition asbestosis typically develops.
The layers of membrane of the lung can become cancerous due to extensive scarring. This condition is then mesothelioma, a cancer of the pleural lining of the lungs.
Development of mesothelioma may occur as long as 40 years following initial exposure (even low level exposure).
Smokers may also develop lung cancer (differing than mesothelioma) as a result of inhaling asbestos fibers.
- shortness of breath (beginning mild and gradually becoming severe)
- chest pain
Diagnosis is typically by physical examination, imaging techniques (x-ray and CT scan), and by tissue biopsy of the lung pleura.
Treatment may be surgical, chemotherapy, and/or radiation therapy. Oxygen is used to relieve shortness of breath. Lung transplantation may be considered as a treatment option.
Prognosis for mesothelioma cancers is not good. The majority of individuals die within 4 years of diagnosis. Treatment focus is therefore on improving the remaining quality of life.
Prevention is key and involves minimizing exposure to asbestos dust. This is particularly important in industrial jobs which routinely handle asbestos in their line of work.