The primary cause and risk factor for mesothelioma is exposure to asbestos and you do not have to have direct contact with asbestos, as in Heather's case her father worked with it and she had just second-hand contact with asbestos.
Making a correct mesothelioma diagnosis is particularly difficult for doctors because the disease often presents with symptoms that mimic other common ailments. There is no known cure for mesothelioma, but treatments such as surgery and chemotherapy have helped to improve the typical mesothelioma prognosis.
About 60% of patients diagnosed with pleural mesothelioma experience lower back pain or side chest pain, and there are frequent reports of shortness of breath. Lower numbers of people may experience difficulty swallowing, or have a persistent cough, fever, weight loss or fatigue. Additional symptoms that some patients experience are muscle weakness, loss of sensory capability, coughing up blood, facial and arm swelling, and hoarseness.
Peritoneal mesothelioma originates in the abdomen and as a result, symptoms often include abdominal pain, weight loss, nausea, and vomiting. Fluid buildup may occur in the abdomen as well as a result of the cancer.
Asbestos exposure is considered the primary risk factor for the development of the cancer. Anyone previously exposed to asbestos displaying any of these symptoms should seek medical attention from their doctor first, only to be referred to a doctor who specializes in the treatment of mesothelioma and thoracic oncology after receiving a positive diagnosis.