Mesothelioma is a tumor that develops in an organ’s outer lining due to excessive asbestos exposure.
It has three main types that may affect the lungs, the heart, and the abdomen.
However, mesothelioma patients also experience severe pain and discomfort in other body parts, given the nature of symptoms, medication, and treatment for the condition. Image Source
Although mesothelioma is a rare illness, it’s a fatal illness with a low survival rate. It drastically affects a patient’s quality of life, mental health, and overall well-being.
Common symptoms include shortness of breath, fever, fatigue, swelling, and loss of appetite resulting in a weak body, sore muscles, and low energy.
However, awareness about how mesothelioma affects different body parts can play a huge role in proper disease and pain management. Let’s take a look!
Nervous System – Brain
Mesothelioma patients on chemotherapy develop a chemo brain—a term used to explain memory and thinking problems before, during, or after chemo.
It results in forgetfulness, fatigue, irritability, poor concentration, and memory loss, and disrupts decision-making, learning, and attention span.
It may develop either due to the tumor itself or the treatment—radiation, anti-tumor drugs, and surgery.
Patients with chemo brain may face mental fog, cognition changes, confusion, and trouble with verbal and visual memory.
It also leads to difficulty in multitasking and completing routine tasks.
Gastrointestinal System – Abdomen and Stomach
Peritoneal mesothelioma forms in the peritoneum, the lining of the abdomen, and causes severe complications in the gastrointestinal tract.
Patients may develop a stomach ache, high fever, constipation, and vomiting.
Blood clots, abdominal fluid build-up, bloating, and appetite loss are also major peritoneal mesothelioma symptoms.
A free guide at Mesothelioma Hope thoroughly explains different types of mesothelioma, common signs, and symptoms.
Respiratory System – Chest and Lungs
Pleural mesothelioma in the lungs leads to oxygen shortage resulting in extreme chest pain, shortness of breath, and painful cough.
Patients may also develop an infection in the airway tract, causing further breathing and swallowing problems.
Constant coughing may become exhaustive and lead to a sore throat. Patients are also at the risk of developing unusual lumps of tissue on the chest.
Cardiovascular Region – Heart
An exceptionally rare pericardial mesothelioma develops on the lining covering the heart.
It majorly impacts the cardiovascular region leading to heart palpitations, dyspnea (breathlessness), fatigue, excessive night sweats, and heart murmurs.
The level of pain that pericardial mesothelioma patients face is greater in severity.
Neuropathy – Nerve Damage
Chemotherapy performed for mesothelioma results in neuropathy; damage to nerves outside the brain and spinal cord.
It further leads to numbness, tingling sensation, and pain in the arms, hands, feet, or legs.
Other body parts may also experience this condition. Moreover, neuropathy affects other internal body functions like urination and digestion.
Spinal Region – Neck, Back, and Lower Back
Pleura mesothelioma tends to spread to the vertebra, which causes a backache.
Since the lungs are closer to the spine, it may lead to neck, back, and lower back pain.
Side Effects During Treatment
Mesothelioma patients may receive chemotherapy that kills tumor cells.
Chemotherapy is either administered orally, via injection or during surgery.
The chemo can also kill healthy, fast-growing blood cells as it travels through the body, leading to side effects.
It may result in tiredness, sickness, severe hair loss, anemia, and bleeding gums and nose.
Chemo decreases the number of red blood cells and reduces the body’s ability to resist infection.
Therefore, the body is at risk of catching serious infectious diseases. It may also develop mouth ulcers, skin darkening, and a poor sense of taste.
Surgery for mesothelioma is performed to remove a malignant tumor from the body and relieve symptoms.
Patients may feel severe pain around the incision, develop pneumonia, and experience fatigue, dry cough, and bleeding wounds.
Patients are prone to cardiac complications due to surgery in the chest cavity.
Radiation affects the body as per its location, dosage, frequency, and size of the area treated.
It may lead to exhaustion, lethargy, lung and intestine inflammation, nausea, hair loss, and loss of appetite. Skin rashes, redness, darkening, and swelling may also occur as a result of radiation.
Effects of Mesothelioma on Emotional and Mental Health
Mesothelioma is a challenging disease and involves prolonged pain management and treatment process.
It prevents patients from usual everyday tasks and limits their activities. Patients often experience anxiety, frustration, sadness, and depression.
The painful treatment coupled with emotional distress greatly impacts a patient’s mental well-being.
Some common signs of a disturbed mental state are social dysfunction, anger, hypersomnia (over-sleeping), insomnia (lack of sleep), isolation, and hopelessness.
Pain Management Strategies
Although mesothelioma patients will continue to feel physical, emotional, and mental challenges, a few strategies may be helpful:
- Strong connection with the medical team
- Seek emotional support through friends, family, and support groups
- Maintain body energy levels through sleep, easy physical activity, consumption of healthy food and fluids
- Read inspiring stories of survivors
Mesothelioma is a terminal illness caused by overexposure to asbestos. It majorly affects the outer surface lining of the lungs, the heart, and the abdomen.
However, the signs, symptoms, drugs, and treatment disturb internal functions and body parts.
Despite the classification of the illness, patients experience shortness of breath, chest pain, weight loss, fever, fatigue, and tiredness.
Additionally, mesothelioma takes a toll on the emotional and mental health of the patients.
Patients may struggle with a variety of emotions; depression, anxiety, anger, and distress.
Mesothelioma patients can improve their quality of life through a strong medical team, support groups, physical activity, and being inspired.
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