Mesothelioma is a physically, mentally, and emotionally challenging disease. The most common cause of mesothelioma is asbestos exposure. The disease can stay dormant for years before showing symptoms. That’s why many people are diagnosed decades after initial exposure to asbestos, and the diagnosis often leaves them distressed and confused.
Asbestos was commonly used in various industries by the end of the 20th century. Therefore, people working in professions that extensively used asbestos-like industrial workers, US army veterans, construction workers, and their families, are at a higher risk of developing this disease.
There are four types of mesothelioma, and the physicians design a treatment plan based on the type, the patient’s age, and the disease’s stage. Mesothelioma can’t be cured, but modern treatments can alleviate symptoms and improve quality of life.
Mesothelioma has vague symptoms similar to many other common chest and lung diseases like chest pain, fatigue, persistent cough, loss of appetite, and more. Therefore, physicians often misdiagnose it, and the correct diagnosis is delayed causing further complications.
Other reasons for mesothelioma misdiagnoses are that it is a rare disease affecting only a limited number of people in a year and has a long latency period of around 20-50 years.
In this article, we will discuss the common mesothelioma symptoms that may be misdiagnosed for other conditions.
- Chest Infection
Chest infections are a common symptom of many lung-related diseases. Therefore, it often leads to mesothelioma misdiagnosis and delays the treatment options and chances of the patient. Chest infections are common in pleural mesothelioma, the most common type of mesothelioma patients.
Chest infections are mostly caused by viruses and flu. However, mesothelioma chest infections are a result of asbestos fibers getting absorbed in the lung lining and mutating the healthy cells to rapidly dividing cancerous cells. The similar symptoms between viral chest infections and chest infections caused by pleural mesothelioma are:
- Difficulty breathing
- Excessive mucus production
- High fever
- Nausea and Vomiting
Nausea or vomiting are common symptoms of a plethora of diseases, and it is nothing serious most of the time. Therefore, if a person is experiencing these symptoms, it can be really challenging to diagnose mesothelioma just from this.
Nausea and vomiting are common symptoms of peritoneal mesothelioma and are accompanied by an uneasy feeling in the stomach, stomach pain, and a nauseated feeling. Physicians recommend more medical tests to rule out anything serious in case of persistent nausea and vomiting.
- Abdominal Pain and Swelling
Abdominal pain and swelling are other mesothelioma symptoms that are often not taken seriously and lead to misdiagnosis. Abdominal pain can be caused by several reasons, like intestinal gas or other digestive issues. It is a common symptom of peritoneal mesothelioma.
If you regularly suffer from abdominal pain or if abdominal pain occurs along with other unusual symptoms like weight loss, blood in stool, or more, it is best to get a second opinion to avoid getting misdiagnosed.
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
Irritable bowel syndrome is a common digestive system problem. It can last for days to months and has symptoms like stomach pain, bloating, constipation, and more. IBS can be a symptom of various diseases, or it can be a cause of diet change. Taking medicines can also affect your digestive system and can lead to IBS.
Irritable bowel syndrome is a symptom of peritoneal mesothelioma and is often misdiagnosed as just another digestive issue. More blood tests and a detailed check-up can help differentiate irritable bowel syndrome from mesothelioma.
- Shortness of breath
Difficulty in breathing or facing shortness of breath can be a symptom of various diseases. However, it is also a common symptom of pericardial mesothelioma. Therefore, physicians often misdiagnose it as a symptom of iron deficiency, heart problems, less lung capacity, and other such diseases.
If shortness of breath persists despite treatment, it can signify something serious. In a healthy person, shortness of breath is nothing serious and can result from overexertion. However, if it comes on unexpectedly and quickly, it is most probably because of an underlying medical condition.
Fatigue can be caused by many reasons and is often nothing serious. However, persistent fatigue can be a sign of something serious. Physicians often take into account other symptoms before diagnosing a disease based on only fatigue.
Fatigue accompanied by an abundance of mucus and chest pain is often misdiagnosed as emphysema when it can be an early warning sign of pleural mesothelioma. However, when the condition worsens, doctors often try to get to the bottom of the problem.
- Weight Loss
Weight loss is a common symptom of many mesothelioma-related illnesses, or it can just be a result of extensive exercise, diet change, or other lifestyle changes. However, it is best to get unexplainable weight loss assessed by a competent specialist to overrule anything serious.
Weight loss is a common symptom of all types of mesothelioma. Patients are recommended to eat healthy and nutritious meals and avoid junk food to alleviate this symptom and maintain a healthy body weight, which is necessary for a positive treatment response.
What to Do If You Think You Have Been Misdiagnosed?
It can be highly nerve-wracking for a patient to get misdiagnosed and not get better even after taking medicine and getting treatment. Therefore, it is recommended to seek a second opinion from a physician who is specialized in treating mesothelioma.
Average oncologists often fail to timely diagnose mesothelioma. However, a specialized doctor can quickly help you identify whether your symptoms are an indication of a serious medical illness or not. Specialized doctors perform a biopsy to analyze your tissues to correctly diagnose your symptoms.
The Wrap Up
Mesothelioma is a rare disease. It has no cure, but early diagnosis and treatment or therapy can help a patient lead healthy life. However, mesothelioma has vague symptoms similar to various heart and lung-related diseases and has a long latency period. Therefore, physicians fail to diagnose it at the right time.
Common symptoms of mesothelioma often misdiagnosed for other conditions include fatigue, nausea and vomiting, irritable bowel syndrome, shortness of breath, chest infection, abdominal pain and swelling, and many other symptoms. If you suspect misdiagnosis, seek a second opinion to be sure. Hopefully, this article has helped you understand the common mesothelioma symptoms that may be misdiagnosed for other conditions.