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Acute Mesothelioma

Acute Aspects of Mesothelioma Pain and Treatments

Mesothelioma, caused by exposure to airborne asbestos fibers, is a rare but serious cancer involving the lining of the lung, the abdomen or the heart. The latency period – the time between asbestos exposure and diagnosis of mesothelioma – can be decades long. Some patients are diagnosed up to 50 years after their initial exposure to asbestos, and the disease is typically in an advanced stage when they begin to suffer symptoms. In the late stages of the disease, the average survival time is less than a year.

Research has shown that some mesothelioma patients have an “acute phase” response that is followed months, or even years later, with a confirmed diagnosis. The “acute phase” of any disease indicates a short, sharp and often severe course of the disease. In the case of mesothelioma, this may be reflected with acute pain in the abdomen, indicating peritoneal mesothelioma, or with a severe shortness of breath that is often associated with pleural mesothelioma. During this phase, however, a tumor is not yet detectable.

Acute Pain

Pain associated with mesothelioma varies from patient to patient and depends on the type of mesothelioma. Over half of all pleural mesothelioma patients have pain in the lower back and sides of the chest. The pain typically increases over time and can be acute in many patients, often requiring the use of prescription narcotics.

Sufferers of peritoneal mesothelioma experience abdominal swelling caused by both the accumulation of fluid in the abdomen and tumor growth. Pain in the abdominal area is caused by the amount of solid tumor and can become acute.

Pericardial mesothelioma, or mesothelioma of the pericardium, is an asbestos cancer that affects the lining of the heart (pericardium). Less than 10 percent of mesothelioma patients develop pericardial mesothelioma. Pericardial mesothelioma is the most painful form of the disease with symptoms including chest pain, heart palpitations, acute shortness of breath, and constant coughing.

Acute Side Effects from Chemotherapy Treatment

Mesothelioma treatment typically includes chemotherapy and radiation therapies. Unfortunately, the strong chemicals in the chemotherapy drugs can result in acute vomiting in some patients. The effects from the medication may be felt within the first few hours of infusion or several days later. To prevent or limit vomiting that often accompanies chemotherapy treatments, doctors typically prescribe an anti-nausea medication.

Drug manufacturers have made great progress in limiting the side effects from chemotherapy by lowering the toxicity level of treatment drugs and combining chemotherapy drugs with vitamins. Due to the nature of chemotherapy drugs, it is unlikely that the side effects will disappear completely. As with all medical treatments, severity of side effects depends on the dosage as well as the patient’s individual reaction to the medications.

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