Symptoms of mesothelioma cancer may appear at first to be nothing more than common ailments or illnesses. However, a medical professional should perform a thorough examination of an individual with mesothelioma-type complaints to rule out other possible conditions. Some individuals with mesothelioma cancer, however, do not have any symptoms or present one or two that are often dismissed. Since the incubation period of mesothelioma after asbestos exposure can take several decades, the presentation of symptoms may be gradual and appear less serious than they actually are.
One of the symptoms of peritoneal mesothelioma – where the abdominal cavity is affected – is bowel obstruction. Though it is not a common symptom, bowel obstruction can be present in some individuals. Typically in the other types of mesothelioma cancer, bowel obstruction is not common and is often not reported.
One of the most painful and debilitating symptoms of peritoneal mesothelioma is bowel obstruction. Often, bowel obstruction presents later, as a secondary symptom due to the build up of fluid in the abdomen known as ascites. Typically, if a bowel obstruction presents, along with other associated symptoms of peritoneal mesothelioma, then it is a sign that the disease has advanced.
As the mesothelium surrounding the abdominal cavity swells from the retention of the fluid, pressure increases on all of the surrounding organs, including the bowel. Often, the individual ignores primary symptoms of peritoneal mesothelioma –generalized abdominal pain, dysphagia and nausea – as symptoms of common gastrointestinal conditions. However, it is critical to note that if a bowel obstruction is found in an individual, the total of all other symptoms combined may signal a malignant mesothelioma cancer.
Individuals may present additional symptoms along with a bowel obstruction. Often nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain and constipation accompany bowel obstruction. Though peritoneal mesothelioma can cause the abdominal cavity to swell, a bowel obstruction may also cause swelling and bloating in the lower pelvic region.
Whether the additional symptoms are caused by the bowel obstruction or peritoneal mesothelioma, the obstruction must be dealt with immediately. Risks with a bowel obstruction include dehydration due to the lack or absorption of electrolytes, malnutrition, weight loss and vitamin deficiency.
Typically, a bowel or intestinal obstruction in a peritoneal mesothelioma sufferer signifies a mechanical issue rather than functional. A mechanical issue arises with peritoneal mesothelioma cancer due to the added pressure of the fluid collected in the abdominal cavity, pushing down on the intestines.
However, a medical professional should also rule out whether there is also a functional issue with the intestines. A functional issue is an internal problem with the natural mechanics of the intestines, caused by another underlying disease or an inherited condition. It is rare that in peritoneal mesothelioma patients, bowel obstructions are due to a functional issue presented by another disease.
As with all symptoms of mesothelioma cancers, including pleural mesothelioma and pericardial mesothelioma, a medical professional should rule out other underlying conditions that may cause symptoms. Many diseases have strikingly similar symptoms, and eliminating all other possibilities will only ensure a proper and true diagnosis.
With an individual suffering from peritoneal mesothelioma and presenting a bowel obstruction, immediate medical attention is required. Often, the bowel obstruction is surgically removed, but in some individuals, the bowel obstruction may resolve on its own. However, with peritoneal mesothelioma suffers, a natural clearing of the obstruction may not happen. If the bowel obstruction is not immediately treated, it can lead to additional medical problems.
Currently, all types of mesothelioma cancers comprise one percent of the total cancer diagnoses, though the medical community expects that number to increase rapidly over the next couple of decades. With prolonged and persistent asbestos or erionite exposure, the particles can become attached to the mesothelium or lining of the internal organs and reside there for decades. However, there are rare mesothelioma cancer diagnoses where asbestos exposure was not present in an individual’s history.
Cases of all types of mesothelioma cancer may peak in the next several decades because of the protracted incubation period. The medical community continues to make important progress in the diagnosis and treatment of mesothelioma cancer.
The prognosis for malignant mesothelioma continues to improve, along with all of the other advancements stemming from the on-going research.
If an individual suspects a bowel obstruction, seek immediate medical attention.
National Cancer Institute. Mesothelioma: Questions and Answers. Accessed on November 8, 2010.
British Thoracic Society Stands of Care Committee. BTS statement on malignant mesothelioma in the UK, 2007. July 20, 2007 Accessed on November 9, 2010.
Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. Accessed on November 9, 2010.