Mesothelioma is one of the most deadly disease in the world. It is a cancer of the mesothelium of the abdominal cavity, the chest wall and the region around the heart. Different types of mesothelioma are distinguished between by where the cancer is growing. Pleural mesothelioma, the most common, accounting for 75% of all mesothelioma cases, is where cancerous cells develop on the lining of the lungs. The next most common form of mesothelioma is peritoneal mesothelioma and this is where cancerous cells grow on the peritoneum which is the lining of the abdomen. Pericardial mesothelioma, the least common major form of mesothelioma, makes up roughly 5% of all mesothelioma cases. This is where malignant cancer cells grow on the lining of the heart.
Mesothelioma is primarily caused by chronic exposure to asbestos or asbestos related products. As asbestos fibers enter the body, either by breathing or swallowing, they cause normally healthy cells to mutate into cancer. This exposure can come directly, such as working in an asbestos processing center, or indirectly by inhalation of residual asbestos particles remaining on clothing or building materials. Due to its uncommon nature, mesothelioma is typically difficult to diagnose and treat. It has been connected with exposure to asbestos, a material formerly present in many work environments. Only about 3,000 individuals are diagnosed annually.
The primary risk factor for developing mesothelioma is exposure to asbestos. Between 70-80% of people diagnosed with mesothelioma have been exposed to asbestos, usually in the workplace. Although it is possible to develop mesothelioma without any exposure to asbestos, it is very rare. While one person for every million people in the US will be diagnosed with mesothelioma, about 7-13 men who have been exposed to asbestos will be diagnosed with the disease. Symptoms frequently take 20 years to develop, but can take as long as 50 years to occur. When cancerous cells invade the mesothelium, it becomes increasingly difficult to breathe. In the pleural form of mesothelioma, tumors growing in the mesothelium cause pleural effusions, which prevent the smooth movement of the lungs and other organs in the chest. Peritoneal mesothelioma invades the abdominal cavity and can cause loss of appetite weight loss, nausea and vomiting.
Early diagnosis is difficult and in most cases the first obvious sign is sudden breathlessness caused by an accumulation of fluid in the pleural space (a pleural effusion)and may be accompanied by other symptoms such as chest pain. Scans and X-rays can provide strong evidence to support the diagnosis especially coupled with a history of asbestos exposure. However, other diseases can produce these symptoms and to be certain of a correct diagnosis more investigations often need to be carried out. Scans, Fluid taken for laboratory examination, possibly needle biopsy or keyhole surgery to take a biopsy (a small sample of tissue) are likely to be carried out to help with the confirmation of the diagnosis. These tests and results may take several weeks to complete.
If you have been are experiencing symptoms closely related to the ones described above please consult a doctor. If you or a family member have been affected by mesothelioma it is possible to receive compensation through legal channels by consulting a lawyer. Mesothelioma is a very aggressive form of cancer. Because it takes so long for symptoms to appear it can spread to the other organs in the chest, the chest wall and into the lymph nodes. The cancerous cells spread, or metastasize from the mesothelium into other parts of the body and damage internal tissues and organs. Treatment is more effective when the disease is detected early.
There are a few treatments for all types of mesothelioma but none of these have a high success rate. The effectiveness of the treatment depends on how early and how aggressively the cancer is treated. If the cancerous cells are treated when they have fully matured and developed then it is unlikely that treatment methods will be successful. Treatment methods include chemotherapy which is the use of drugs to kill the cancer, radiation therapy which uses a radiation dosage to kill off cancerous cells and surgery which attempts to gain long term control over the cancer by removing a large portion of malignant cells. These treatment methods can be combined in the form of dual therapy.
Related mesothelioma articles: