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The membranes surrounding the human heart, lungs and abdominal organs are composed of cells known as the mesothelium. These cells are essential components of organs that expand, contract, and are consistently in motion, such as the lungs, heart, and stomach. They encompass the organs, support and protect them. The cells are regularly lubricated so that they perform their function optimally.
The layer of mesothelial tissue may be afflicted by cancerous growths. The tumors may be either benign or malignant. Benign growths are less common than malignant growths. The primary site is usually the lungs, particularly the outer lining of the organ. Nevertheless, tumor growth could also start in any of the abdominal organs such as the stomach. This aggressive form of cancer known in the medical community as “Mesothelioma” is rare and fatal. Surgery can help arrest the progression and improve the disease prognosis along with chemotherapy or radiation therapy. However, there is no known cure.
The etiology or cause of malignant mesothelioma is still not fully understood. Studies have shown that there is high incidence amongst workers previously exposed to asbestos. Those who have history of asbestos exposure—via inhalation or ingestion, took a long period of time before the symptoms of the disease became evident.
Making a definite diagnosis of the disease can be a complicated process. Mesothelioma symptoms are quite similar to that of other diseases, some of which are quite common and not as fatal. SOB or shortness of breath is the most common symptom of the disease, along with pain along the chest wall. Another significant symptom is unexplained loss of weight.These are some of the symptoms seen in pneumonia and other respiratory illnesses. Cases of mesothelioma have been documented in women and children. Men over the age of 60 are most commonly afflicted, in relation to its causal relationship with asbestos exposure.
Making a definite diagnosis of the disease can be a complicated process. Mesothelioma symptoms are quite similar to that of other diseases, some of which are quite common and not as fatal. SOB or shortness of breath is the most common symptom of the disease, along with pain along the chest wall. Another significant symptom is unexplained loss of weight. Cases of mesothelioma have been documented in women and children. Men over the age of 60 are most commonly afflicted, in relation to its causal relationship with asbestos exposure.
At the early stage and without definitive tests to confirm mesothelioma, the disease could go unnoticed and undiagnosed. The disease can easily be misdiagnosed by inexperienced physicians due to the lack of distinctive signs early on.This is rather unfortunate because early detection is a key factor in the proper management of this rare condition
There are several forms of mesothelioma. The first is peritoneal mesothelioma, which affects the organs found within the abdomen, such as the stomach. The second is pleural mesothelioma, which affects the lining of the lungs. The third is pericardial mesothelioma, which affects the cavity that encloses the heart. In some cases, the sac that surrounds the testis in males, the tunica vaginalis may also be affected.
Our understanding of the development of mesothelioma is still growing. A doctor gives the diagnosis of mesothelioma only after a comprehensive physical check-up. The patient’s history is taken and the current symptoms are documented. Tests are performed based on the presentation of symptoms. If the primary complaint of the patient is SOB, lung function tests are indicated. Chest x-ray, MRI and CT scan results of the pulmonary and abdominal areas can reveal the presence of malignant mesothelioma. It is important to remember that a definitive diagnosis of malignant mesothelioma can only be made upon performance of a biopsy or analysis using serous effusion cytology. Today, because of improvements in technology, cytology results are more accurate in determining the presence of malignant mesothelial cells. Unfortunately, there are still no screening tests to ascertain an individual’s risk for mesothelioma or methods of diagnosing the disease in its early stage.
There are still no screening tests to ascertain an individual’s risk for mesothelioma or methods of diagnosing the disease in its early stage. Fortunately, there are resources available to those who have been diagnosed. Sufferers and their families can talk to experts on the disease so that they can learn about the prognosis and the management and treatment options available. Although there is no cure, there are new treatment options, which offer better prognosis for sufferers of mesothelioma. Emerging treatment ideas are helping to improve patient prognosis. Clinical trials of new medical interventions can extend the life expectancy of sufferers. Each year, more and more patients are overcoming the disease. Higher survival rates are now possible with targeted and personalized treatment regimens that arrest the development of malignant cells.