What to know about mesothelioma

Mesothelioma is a rare cancer that’s most commonly found in the lining of the lungs or abdomen, but it can also start in the lining of the heart or testicles in rare cases. Mesothelioma is most common in men ages 45 to 85. Typically, it occurs in those who’ve been exposed to asbestos, a fibrous mineral used in construction and manufacturing until it was banned by the Environmental Protection Agency in 1989. But not everyone who’s been exposed to asbestos will get mesothelioma. In rare cases, mesothelioma can be passed down in families through the BAP1 gene, or BRCA1-associated protein 1. Not everyone who’s been exposed to asbestos will get mesothelioma, but if you’ve been exposed, you could be at risk. To learn about mesothelioma symptoms, diagnosis and treatment options, we spoke with Anne Tsao, M.D. Here’s what she shared. What are common mesothelioma symptoms? Mesothelioma symptoms often don’t appear until it’s advanced. It may be 20-30 years or more after you’ve been exposed to asbestos. When it begins in the lungs, it’s called pleural mesothelioma. Shortness of breath is one of the first symptoms, but fluid in your lungs may also cause constant coughing or wheezing. As the tumor grows, it may press against other parts of your body, causing chest pain. Peritoneal mesothelioma begins in the lining of the abdomen; its first sign is usually abdominal bloating. You should tell your doctor if you experience any of these symptoms. How is mesothelioma diagnosed? If you’re experiencing shortness of breath, your doctor will most likely perform a chest X-ray. This would show any fluid in your lungs. If...

How Enhanced Recovery Program is changing cancer patients’ surgery recovery

Since becoming a doctor, one of the most important things I’ve learned is that the more we can lower patients’ anxiety levels, the better off they are. Educating patients about what to expect improves both how they do during cancer treatment and how they feel about it. It’s like giving people a passport to their own healing. That’s why I’m so pleased to be involved in MD Anderson initiatives that ensure our patients receive the best possible care. My role lets me keep enjoying the remarkable relationships I’ve developed by treating individuals, while also putting entire systems in place that help all of our patients. Enhanced Recovery Program gets cancer patients feeling better faster As a physician, my goal is to do the right thing for the right patient at the right time, every time. And every other doctor at MD Anderson shares this goal. It starts with putting extremely talented people together with really good safety and quality practices. Many of these practices are included in our Enhanced Recovery Program (ERP), a set of 21 guidelines initially used before, during and after surgical procedures. Now these same practices have crossed over to medicine and are being used to aid in the recovery of non-surgical patients, as well. But Enhanced Recovery is more of a philosophy of care than a narrow program. It includes strategies such as minimizing the use of narcotics, aggressive physical therapy, and allowing patients to drink clear fluids up to two hours before a procedure. The idea is to get people feeling better faster, so they can get back to their lives that much sooner....