I have scrutinized hundreds of medical records over the last decade, and the one major point I want to make clear is that I rarely find a mention of asbestos exposure in the medical records until after a mesothelioma diagnosis has been made.

I have never seen any questions or reference to asbestos exposure on any medical questionnaire that I have completed for myself or my husband. I have seen the question on medical and exposure history questionnaires of those surgeons and specialists that treat mesothelioma patients and for those who are monitored through their employment.

Now I know that I can’t remember every little thing in my life but if you, as you are reading this, can recall your own exposure to asbestos – take the time to write it down. Try to remember the years, type of exposure and product. In fact it might be a good idea to keep a journal that would include your past medical history, surgeries, illnesses, hospitalizations, medications and exposures to all toxic substances. And remember to include your parents and siblings’ medical history, if you know it, because it is always on the medical questionnaire. If anything, having a medical journal would make it easier for you or a loved one to fill out the medical questionnaire. And it is important to keep it current and in a convenient, easy-to-locate place should you need it in an emergency situation. And for you snowbirds, take it with you when you head south for the winter.

Not all of us are going to be diagnosed with an asbestos-related disease, but we have to make sure that our doctor is aware of our history of exposure. It may help when he listens to your chest and hears the rattling or rub in the chest. Tell him all your symptoms, including night sweats, nagging cough and difficulty sleeping on one side or flat on your back. Let him know if you wake up gasping for air or have heaviness in your chest. Don’t be shy, embarrassed or too proud to tell him all your ailments.

If after you have seen your doctor and been prescribed medication for any illness, and your health does not improve or the symptoms linger, then go back to your physician and tell him. Help him help you.

Mesothelioma can only be diagnosed by way of tissue biopsy or analysis of cells from fluid removed from the chest or abdomen. If your doctor decides it is necessary for you to undergo one or more of these diagnostic tests, follow his advice and do it!