Blood clotting disorders can occur independently or as consequence of other conditions, as is the case with mesothelioma. There are four different types of mesothelioma, a type of cancer caused by exposure to asbestos. Pleural mesothelioma is the most common type, accounting for about 75% of all cases and it diagnosed when tumors develop in the tissue lining in the lungs, while 20% of the patients are diagnosed with peritoneal mesothelioma, which occur in the abdomen.
The other two types are pericardial mesothelioma, which affects the lining of the heart, and testicular mesothelioma, which develops in the testicles’ tissue. Blood clotting disorders can be a primary symptom of peritoneal mesothelioma or a secondary symptom of other types of mesothelioma when the disease has progressed and spread to other parts of the body. There is currently no cure for mesothelioma and this symptom can make it even more severe.
How Blood Clotting Disorders Affect Patients with Mesothelioma
Peritoneal mesothelioma occurs when a person inhales or swallows asbestos fibers that travel through the digestive and lymphatic systems or blood flow to the abdomen. There, the body is unable to properly expel the fibers and the cells become irritated, causing the formation of tumors. When the cancerous cells affect the tissue around the abdominal cavity, they pressure organs like the stomach, causing difficulties in the normal blood flow. Since the blood cannot properly flow through the body, blood clots are formed and consequently the body starts to lose its normal ability to clot the blood.
Blood clotting disorders refer to numerous conditions, which can affect the red blood cells that are responsible for carrying oxygen to the tissues in the body, white blood cells that fight infections, or platelets that help blood clot. In the case of mesothelioma, anemia is particularly common. The disease is characterized by low counts of red blood cells and can cause fatigue, pale skin, and shortness of breath. In patients with pericardial mesothelioma, the protective sac surrounding the heart is damaged resulting in blood clotting disorders, and in patients with pleural mesothelioma, shortness of breath can result in lung clots.
Management of Blood Clotting Disorders by Mesothelioma Patients
Blood clots are dangerous, particularly in the lungs since they can exacerbate the difficulties in breathing and cause severe chest pain. Due to the clots, patients experience pain, which can be localized or generalized throughout the chest. In the case of acute pain, wheezing and bloodied sputum, patients need to be treated rapidly. Early detection is the first treatment for the treatment of blood clotting disorders and improve patients’ quality of life, since there is currently no cure for mesothelioma. To address this specific symptom, physicians may prescribe anticoagulant medication, also known as thinners. Common drugs are heparin, low molecular weight heparin and warfarin, which work by slowing blood clotting time, preventing clots from growing, and preventing the formation of more clots.
Patients who suffer from mesothelioma are usually treated with surgery to remove the tumors, which can be combined with other therapies. Cystoreductive surgery the only procedure available for this form of the disease and it consists on the surgical removal the tumors from the abdomen. Chemotherapy is the most common treatment option and it may be administered directly to the abdomen during surgery, while radiation therapy is the least invasive therapy, and it may also be delivered during surgery. When the cancer already spread and surgery is too risky, palliative care can also be recommended to ease the symptoms.
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