Mesothelioma is a rare type of cancer that develops in the mesothelial cells that lines many organs and body cavities. The mesothelium (composed of mesothelial cells) is the membrane that lines three of the body’s cavities, and depending on what cavity it lines it is given a specific name: the thoracic cavity (pleura), abdominal cavity (peritoneum), and the heart sac (pericardium).
The mesothelium that covers the internal organs is called the visceral mesothelium, while the layer that covers the body wall is called parietal mesothelium.
Mesothelium tissue also surrounds the male internal reproductive organs and covers the internal reproductive organs in women.
Mesothelioma is an aggressive cancer of this mesothelium, in which cells of the mesothelium become abnormal and divide uncontrollably and without order. They can invade and damage nearby tissues and organs. Most cases of mesothelioma begin in the thoracic cavity (pleura) or the abdominal cavity (peritoneum).
Approximately 2,000 to 3,000 cases of mesothelioma are diagnosed each year in the United States, comprising around 3 percent of all cancer diagnoses. This cancer occurs more frequently in men than in women, about four times more frequent. All forms of mesothelioma, except for benign mesothelioma, are invariably fatal. The prognosis for mesothelioma is almost always poor and most studies report a median survival of less than one year, but the prognosis really depends on how early it is diagnosed and how aggressively it is treated.
Causes of Mesothelioma
Mesothelioma is almost exclusively caused by asbestos exposure. Asbestos is a naturally-occurring fibrous substance that was widely used in the twentieth century in a number of different industries. Popular because of its durability, fire resistance, and insulating properties, it was regularly used in the manufacture of several thousand different products, up until the time that asbestos warnings were issued in the mid-1970s. It is estimated that approximately 80 to 90 percent of mesothelioma cases are linked to asbestos exposure.
The exact way in which asbestos causes mesothelioma is not well understood, though doctors and researchers have put forth many hypotheses. What is apparent, however, is that any length of exposure to asbestos can be hazardous and may result in the development of asbestos-related disease later in life.
Types of Mesothelioma
There are five known types of mesothelioma. Four of these are malignant cancers, and one is a benign condition.
Pleural Mesothelioma: This type of mesothelioma develops in the lining of the lungs, known as the pleura. It is the most common form of malignant mesothelioma, with around 70 percent of cases being pleural in origin.
Peritoneal Mesothelioma: This form of mesothelioma develops in the lining of the abdominal cavity, known as the peritoneal membrane. Approximately 25 percent of mesotheliomas are of this type.
Pericardial Mesothelioma: This form of mesothelioma develops in the lining of the heart, known as the pericardium. About 5 percent of all mesothelioma cases are pericardial.
Testicular Mesothelioma: This is the rarest type of malignant mesothelioma; to date, there have been less than 100 recorded cases. Testicular mesothelioma develops in the tunica vaginalis of the testicles.
Benign Mesothelioma: The benign form of mesothelioma most commonly develops in the pleura. This is the only form of mesothelioma for which full cure and recovery is a probable outcome, though it may be a precursor of future asbestos-related problems.
Mesothelioma Symptoms and Diagnosis
Mesothelioma is difficult to diagnose, largely due to the fact that it remains latent in the body for up to five decades and is usually not diagnosed until its late stages.
The most common symptoms of pleural mesothelioma are shortness of breath, chest pain, and persistent cough. However, some patients may not show any symptoms at all. A frequent sign is pleural effusion (water in the lungs).
Some symptoms of peritoneal mesothelioma include weight loss, abdominal pain and swelling and bowel obstruction. If the cancer has spread to other parts of the body, some other common symptoms may include trouble swallowing, swelling of the neck or face, blood clotting problems, anemia and fever.
Also, diagnosis may be difficult due to the non-specific nature of most mesothelioma symptoms, which often resemble symptoms of less serious diseases.
The process of diagnosis usually begins with a compilation of the patient’s full medical and work history, including any exposure to asbestos. A medical examination is performed and if a problem is suspected, one or more diagnostic tests are ordered. These typically include medical imaging tests such as x-rays, CT and MRI scans, as well as biopsy procedures that test samples of fluid and tissue for the presence of cancer cells. Diagnostic tests are also used to determine how far the cancer has advanced, and whether it has spread to other locations in the body.
Mesothelioma treatments can be divided into two main categories: curative treatments and palliative treatments. Curative treatments are those carried out in an attempt to remove all cancer cells and cure the disease. Palliative treatments are designed to ease pain and make a patient more comfortable.
Treatments for mesothelioma include conventional treatments such as surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy, as well as experimental procedures, including immunotherapy and gene therapy.
Generally, a patient with mesothelioma will receive more than one type of conventional treatment. For example, they may undergo surgery to remove the bulk of cancerous tissue, and then receive chemotherapy or radiation therapy to kill any remaining cancer cells.
Experimental treatments are typically available only to patients who agree to enter clinical trials. In these cases, patients must fit certain criteria to be eligible.
The dangers of asbestos exposure were known long before any efforts were made to protect workers. Thousands of American workers were exposed to asbestos during the twentieth century, with no indication as to the risks that they were facing.
Companies that produced asbestos-containing products or used these products on a daily basis are liable for their negligence in failing to protect their workers. If you or a loved one has developed mesothelioma or another asbestos-related disease as a result of asbestos exposure, it’s important to know you can talk to an attorney about seeking compensation for pain and suffering as well as reimbursement for medical expenses and lost income.
Mesothelioma Cancer & Veterans
According to a revealing statistic, more than 30 percent of Americans beset with mesothelioma (a cancer that attacks the internal lining of the lungs, abdomen, or heart) were exposed to asbestos during military service.
Due to common military practices, veterans who served between 1940 and 1970 have a great risk of developing asbestos-related illnesses. Additionally, Navy personnel and workers employed in shipyards from the 1930s through the 1970s hold a greater risk of developing a disease caused by asbestos exposure.
For More information visit following articles:
Causes of Mesothelioma
Types of Mesothelioma
Mesothelioma Staging Systems
Women and Mesothelioma
Mesothelioma Surgery – Thoracentesis
Mesothelioma Surgery – Pleurodesis
Mesothelioma Surgery – Pneumonectomy
Mesothelioma Surgery – Paracentesis
Mesothelioma Surgery – Thoracotomy
Mesothelioma Surgery – Thoracoscopy
Chemotherapy Treatment for Mesothelioma
Mesothelioma Chemotherapy – Cisplatin
Mesothelioma Chemotherapy – Alimta
Mesothelioma Chemotherapy – Onconase
Mesothelioma Chemotherapy – Gemcitabine
Mesothelioma Chemotherapy – Carboplatin
Radiation Treatment for Mesothelioma
Mesothelioma Treatment – Brachytherapy
Other Therapies Used to Treat Mesothelioma
Gene Therapy Treatment for Mesothelioma
Immunotherapy Treatment for Mesothelioma
Photodynamic Therapy Treatment for Mesothelioma
Clinical Trials for Mesothelioma
Alternative Therapies for Mesothelioma
Acupuncture Treatment for Mesothelioma
Massage Therapy for Mesothelioma
Meditation to treat Mesothelioma
Supplements to treat Mesothelioma
TENS Therapy for Mesothelioma
Yoga for Mesothelioma
Mesothelioma and Nutrition
Proper Nutrition During Mesothelioma Chemotherapy
Proper Nutrition During Mesothelioma Radiation Treatment
Compassionate Allowances and Mesothelioma
Dealing with Symptoms and Side Effects
Dealing with Mesothelioma Symptoms
Feelings After Diagnosis
Creating a Management Plan
Wills and DNRs
For the Caregiver
Treatment Side Effects
Mesothelioma Support Groups