Mesothelioma, typically caused by asbestos exposure, is a cancer of the mesothelium or the protective lining surrounding the lungs, abdomen or heart. Though advancements towards a comprehensive cure for mesothelioma are progressing, it remains one of the rarest forms of cancer for which there is still no cure.
Symptoms of mesothelioma range from localized pain in the chest, weight loss, unexplained growths in the abdomen and difficulty breathing. Anemia is a common symptom of mesothelioma, though it can remain undetected because it does not present outward or painful symptoms. Tiredness, dull aches or an overall feeling of sluggishness are anemia symptoms and may not be as pronounced as other symptoms of mesothelioma. However, if untreated, anemia can cause serious damage.
When anemia presents with other mesothelioma cancer symptoms, it is commonly normocytic anemia. Typically, anemia is the decrease of red blood cells or hemoglobin, and is a relatively common symptom of many underlying conditions. It is critical that the underlying cause of anemia is examined.
Red blood cells comprise of the majority of blood cells in the body, and are responsible for transporting oxygen and originate in the bone marrow. Hemoglobin, however, transports carbon dioxide back to the lungs for exhalation. Depletion of red blood cells can decrease the amount of oxygen carried through the body. Without proper oxygen circulation, an individual may feel sluggish, slow and suffer from headaches. It is critical that enough oxygen reaches the brain, and if anemia is present, less oxygen is carried.
Anemia is not a cause or disease but results from a dysfunction in the body. In some cases, anemia results from extreme blood loss, but in conjunction with mesothelioma cancer, it usually results from a decrease in red blood cells or hemoglobin. With mesothelioma, the risk factors of untreated anemia are serious including a decrease of bone marrow.
Anemia symptoms are varying and often vague. Fatigue, weakness or drowsiness are some symptoms of anemia, though they could also be attributed to the metastasizing mesothelioma cells. Further, weight loss and chest pain, both symptoms of pleural mesothelioma and pericardial mesothelioma also may present due to a low red blood cell count. Sallow skin and extreme fatigue are external, visible symptoms of anemia.
With pleural mesothelioma, where dysphagia or difficulty swallowing is a common symptom, individuals may suffer dehydration and vitamin deficiencies. If an individual has trouble ingesting food or liquid, anemia can result. Adequate vitamin intake from food is critical to a healthy individual, but crucial to battle mesothelioma.
Further, in pleural, pericardial and peritoneal mesotheliomas, pain from growing tumors on the mesothelium can be extreme. Gastrointestinal pain also presents with anemia, which is also a common symptom of peritoneal mesothelioma.
Anemia is a serious condition that may further exacerbate other symptoms of mesothelioma cancers. If an individual presents classic signs of anemia, seek immediate medical attention.
National Cancer Institute. Mesothelioma: Questions and Answers. Accessed on November 8, 2010.
Hsien Liu, Yu-Jen Cheng, Hsin-Pao Chen, Jau-Chung Hwang, and Po-Chih Chang. Multiple bowel intussusceptions from metastic localized malignant pleural mesothelioma: A case report. August 21, 2010. Accessed on November 9, 2010.
The Merck Manual. Accessed on November 9, 2010.
http://www.merck.com/mmpe/sec11/ch129/ch129c.html?qt=anemia in mesothelioma&alt=sh