Not everyone who has been exposed to asbestos will develop mesothelioma, but it is important to be aware of the symptoms and to know when to contact a doctor. A cough is one symptom that many pleural mesothelioma patients share, yet it can also simply be a cold or the flu. Knowing the difference can impact a patient's long-term health.
According to a Sept. 18 article in Medical News Today, while coughing is a "protective action" that helps clear the lungs of germs or harmful objects, when the cough lingers, it may be time to take note. Specifically, the authors note, if a cough is associated with coughing up blood or rust-colored phlegm, shortness of breath, or chest pain you should call a doctor.
Mesothelioma is a terminal, asbestos-caused cancer that may not be diagnosed until decades after the patient was first exposed to the carcinogen. Many times the patient will not even realize he or she was exposed to the mineral, and chances are the deadly asbestos cancer is the last thing on a doctor's mind when trying to understand why their patient cannot get rid of their cough, why their lungs are filling with fluid and why the antibiotics are not helping.
Expert Insight“A cough that is associated with lung cancer can be either dry or wet. It can occur at any time, and even be so severe that it interferes with sleep at night.”
However, early detection of mesothelioma is critical and can positively influence a patient's survival by increasing treatment options and improving their quality of life while battling the cancer. An accurate diagnosis that distinguishes between a temporary illness, such as pneumonia, and mesothelioma is critical for ensuring an appropriate treatment plan is established from the onset.
There may be other symptoms that go along with your cough, that should also sound an alarm, such as wheezing or hoarseness of the voice, problems swallowing, loss of appetite, and returning bronchitis or pneumonia.
Mesothelioma can be challenging to diagnose, and often before an accurate diagnosis there are multiple misdiagnoses. It is not uncommon for a diagnosis to take months and many trips to the doctor's office and even the emergency room. Pleural mesothelioma symptoms can mimic other diseases such as the flu, pneumonia, and other cancers, making it very difficult to diagnose.
If you have been exposed to asbestos in the past and are suffering from a lingering cough, do not hesitate to contact a doctor. Nearly 3,000 Americans are diagnosed with a form of mesothelioma each year.