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Polish Study Finds New Early Mesothelioma Symptom

One of the challenges presented by the rare and deadly form of cancer known as mesothelioma is the fact that it takes a very long time for an accurate diagnosis to be made. The symptoms closely resemble those of many benign conditions, and because the cancer is so unusual doctors commonly treat for these other illnesses before investigating the possibility of something rare. Now Polish scientists have found that shoulder pain may be another early symptom of the illness, giving doctors another tool to help patients get treatment more quickly.

The researchers documented information gathered on 49 mesothelioma patients that were treated at Warsaw’s Central Clinical Hospital between the years 2006 and 2012. A carefully analysis of these records found that nearly fifteen percent had presented with an initial symptom of shoulder pain. The pain was mild but was also accompanied by limited mobility — one patient’s doctor had indicated that his shoulder disfunction was at an “advanced stage,” and two of them were also found to have symptoms that included a sensation of burning or stabbing along the lines of a nerve; this condition is known as neuralgia.

When added to the existing information about mesothelioma, this new symptom can be very valuable. In most cases, pleural mesothelioma is not diagnosed until a patient presents with coughing and shortness of breath, and these symptoms are often thought to be indicative of bronchitis, pneumonia, flu or a cold. These mistaken differential diagnoses often lead to delays in the administration of effective treatment. Knowing that a patient also had experienced shoulder pain can hasten a doctor’s looking to mesothelioma as a possible cause, and in patients where there is a known exposure to asbestos the presence of shoulder pain itself may lead to a quick diagnosis, and the ability to treat the condition when it is in an early stage.

The study’s authors are not entirely sure as to why the pain is occurring, but theorize that pleural mesothelioma may be one of several illnesses that are pleiotropic — this means that its genetic make up causes it to have an impact on multiple body systems. Though the referred pain may seem unrelated, it provides a new opportunity for those exposed to asbestos to get diagnosed as early as possible.

Terri Oppenheimer

Terri Oppenheimer is an independent writer, editor and proofreader. She graduated from the College of William and Mary with a degree in English. Her dreams of a writing career were diverted by a need to pay her bills. She spent a few years providing copy for a major retailer, then landed a lucrative career in advertising sales. With college bills for all three of her kids paid, she left corporate America for a return to her original goal of writing. She specializes in providing content for websites and finds tremendous enjoyment in the things she learns while doing her research. Her specific areas of interest include health and fitness, medical research, and the law.

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