- Diseases, Disorders & Conditions»
Mesothelioma: Cancer Symptoms And Treatment
What Is Mesothelioma?
Mesothelioma is a form of malignant cancer that affects the main tissue covering the main organs of the body. The main organs covered by Mesothelioma are lungs, liver and heart. Mesothelomia cancer normally covers the tissues that cover and protect these organs leaving them naked and exposed to any foreign substances that may affect or actually diminish their effect on the body. A majority of patients affected by Mesothelioma cancer normally begin with the lungs and abdomen. Whatever the case is, Mesothelioma causes a lot of pain and improper functioning of the organs surrounded by the cancerous mesothelioma. It should be noted that mesothelioma is among the rarest forms of cancer, affecting a very small population. Perhaps it is because of this, that many people do not even know the disease exists and its effects. Despite it rarity, more and more people are at risk of contracting mesothelioma cancer.
The information available on this disease is not much, and this is because unlike other forms of cancer that have been given time and resources for research, mesothelioma has often taken a back seat because of its rarity. Resources, time and knowledge, have been spent on the treatment, diagnosis and dissemination of knowledge with regard to main forms of cancer such as breast cancer, prostate cancer, liver cancer and even tongue cancer. However, of recent because of the severity of Mesothelioma cancer, more and more resources have begun being allocated to the research into diagnosis and treatment of cancer. The knowledge and information being disseminated with regard to the issues surrounding this cancer is becoming more available and common.
The number of Mesothelioma cancer cases is below 2% of all the cancer diagnosis in the United States of America. The cancer of the Mesothelioma comes in four types. The first form of Mesothelioma cancer is testicular mesothelioma, which normally affects the reproductive organs of both men and women, although it is much more common in men. Testicular Mesothelioma affects the membrane protecting the testicles and vaginalis. Secondly, peritoneal Mesothelioma which affects the two membranes protecting the abdominal cavity. Peritoneal mesothelioma takes many years to be exposed and hence diagnosed. Pericardial mesothelioma accounts for 15% of all mesothelioma diagnosis and for half of the pericardial tumors diagnosed each year. Pericardial mesothelioma affects the tissue surrounding and protecting the heart. This type of mesothelioma often spreads at a very high speed and in the end often covers the entire heart. The tumor although every rare, often seems not to be localized in nature. Finally, mesothelioma also affects the lungs, another organ covered by protective tissue (pleura). The pleura consist of two layers, protecting the chest cavity. Pleural mesothelioma often begins in one layer of the pleural, but may spread to affect both layers in which case the diagnosis becomes poorer. In addition, once the cancer spreads from the pleural, to other areas the prognosis is rarely favorable and treatment is rarely successful. In addition, even when localized the tumors can metastasize making treatment difficult and causing premature death.
Mesothelioma exposes itself in three stages as characterized by the nature of the tumor, the lymph nodes and metastasis. In the first stage of Mesothelioma, the cancerous cells begin to multiply on the first layer, of the mesothelial layers. In this stage the cancerous cells have not spread to any other layer but are localized within the first layer. It is often hard to diagnose Mesothelioma in this stage because the cells are difficult to see and the symptoms are not yet felt. During the second stage of Mesothelioma, both layers containing mesothelial cells are affected by the cancerous cells. This form of tumor is more common with pleural Mesothelioma, where the two layers of pleura contain cancerous cells. However, the effects of this are only felt on either side of the chest and not on both during this stage. Diagnosis at this stage of Mesothelioma cancer can be done through simple X-rays and biopsies. Because of the growth in tumors they are much easier to locate through X-rays of the affected area. The third stage is the most critical of all, and in this it is noted that the cancer has spread from the mesothelial tissues to affect the nearest organs such as the lungs, heart, and esophagus and chest area. The cancer cells from this stage spread very rapidly, often defying any form of treatment. At this stage the prognosis gives patients less than a year of life and even during this year, the patients are normally in so much pain that they cannot be productive or continue with their normal day to day activities. It is estimated that during this stage, cancerous cells find their way into the transportation system (blood) of the body thereby spreading even further and making complete treatment impossible. Patients report severe pain not just in the area originally affected by cancerous cells but also in other parts of the body such as legs and arms. Once the cancer has spread to this stage, the patient may become paralyzed and immobilized mainly because of the pain but also because of the fast growing tumors. Patients are often on high pain killer medications.
Causes of Mesothelioma
Although it is quite difficult to point out the main casus of Mesothelioma, many studies and much research has shown that asbestos is one of the causes of Mesothelioma cancer. It is believed that there are several ways in which asbestos can cause Mesothelioma. Some of the medical and especially cancer research experts believe that exposure to asbestos often brings about wounds and irritability of the mesothelial cells. Prolonged exposure also means severe scarring and often infected wounds which eventually develop into cancer. Another school of medical experts believes that asbestos affects the production, and separation of cells. Eventually the cells tend to clump up and develop abnormally, becoming tumors. Yet another school of thought establishes that exposure to asbestos, causes a negative effect on the DNA causing cells to develop abnormally, mutate and eventually become cancerous. Finally, there is a school of experts that believes exposure to asbestos can lead to development of abnormal proteins which are responsible for abnormal cell divisions which are responsible for the development of cancerous tumors. In alls schools of medical experts, whatever theory they put forward, the main fact is that the main cause of Mesotheliomic cancer is continued exposure to asbestos.
In some cases there are times when Mesothelioma is known as cancer of the asbestos or asbestos cancer. Pleural Mesothelioma, the highest likely form of cancer is caused by the inhalation of asbestos. Once inhaled the asbestos particles lodge themselves in the protective cover of the chest and lungs, eventually developing into cancer. Peritoneal mesothelioma is cause by ingesting asbestos, although doctors are yet to establish how people can ingest enough asbestos to cause development of cancerous cells. However, a large percentage of peritoneal cancer patient have a history of being exposed to asbestos. Asbestos can reach the heart through the blood stream when people are exposed to the asbestos for a long time eventually leading to the development of pericardial Mesothelioma.
It is common belief that asbestos is a man-made mineral that is conjured in factories, and often leads to major health issues when exposed. However, it is actually a little known fact that asbestos is actually a natural mineral that is mined in many countries in the world. In the past, the mineral was quite useful to companies that were manufacturing heat resistant pipes, and building materials. However, since research showed the negative effects of asbestos, many companies have begun using alternatives.
Asbestos in its natural form is of no concern and can cause very little damage to the health of people. However, when the asbestos leaves its natural form and becomes airborne then it becomes a concern to all health experts. A form of asbestos often known as ‘friable’ which can be crushed into a powder and exposed to the air is the main cause of the Mesothelioma cancers. In the past, in order to protect building from heat exposure, the builders and contractors cover the buildings with spray asbestos in order to reach all parts of the building. Although the asbestos did prove useful in protecting the buildings, the exposure led to several cases of illness that could not be explained. Eventually, the majority of patients suffering from Mesothelioma turned out to either have lived or built these buildings.
The use of asbestos has been banned in many countries, however, in some countries there are minimal uses of asbestos for building and other manufacturing requirements. Many of the countries mining asbestos have fought against the banning of the use of asbestos, by insisting that other forms of asbestos are quite safe. Many countries, including the United States of America have not banned the use of asbestos in manufacturing and building. However, with more information being given, and with research pointing to asbestos as the main cause of Mesothelioma which has become more common, there are increasing campaigns to decrease or ban the use of asbestos in the world.
Treatment of Mesothelioma
The treatment of Mesothelioma cancer depends highly, on the nature, character and extent of the tumor when they are diagnosed. As with any other form of cancer, it is important for the patients to begin treatment immediately after diagnosis. The patients should be able to discuss the major forms of treatment with their doctors and in the same way pick the option they feel is the best for them. To avoid recurrence, it is always advisable to do some proper research into the methods of treatment and ensure that one picks the one less likely to result in recurrence but more likely to result in full remission.
Mesothelioma cancer can be treated through chemotherapy, which is treatment through drugs that fight production of cancer cells. There are two ways of administering chemotherapy to Mesotheliomic patients and this are, one, the patient could ingest or be injected with a combination of the drugs or two, the drug could be administered directly to the affected area. The latter method is only possible with the chest and abdomen areas. Many patients prefer the latter form of administration mainly because doctors can summarize treatment into one or very few doses. In addition, the effects of the chemotherapy are only felt in one part of the body rather than the entire system.
Radiation therapy has not been very effective in the treatment of Mesothelioma, mainly because the tumors in Mesothelioma cancer are hardly localized making radiation rays ineffective. Mainly, radiation is administered by doctors to ease the symptoms of Mesothelioma cancer such as loss of blood and pain in the affected area. However, if the patient of diagnosed when the cancer has progressed to make their health inadequate, doctors could apply radiation therapy to reduce the spread of cancer and improve the health of the patient making him stronger for other treatment methods to be applied.
Mesothelioma cancer can be treated through surgery. In most cases Mesothelioma requires extensive and intrusive surgery to ensure that all cancerous cells are removed. In addition, some doctors still recommend small doses of chemotherapy to deal with what might be random cancer cells. When the patients are too sick, the doctors could use a less intrusive form of surgery that aims at reducing the symptoms affecting the patient. Mainly during the surgery, doctors work on removing as much of the affected tissue as they can without exposing the entire organ. It is important for all cancerous cells to be captured and this is why many doctors also apply some chemotherapeutic drugs during the surgery to ensure maximum results.
Although Mesothelioma cancer is not as common as other forms of cancer, it is important not to ignore the risk factors. Once diagnosed with Mesothelioma cancer, it is important to begin treatment as soon as possible. This is to ensure that all cancer cells are dealt with, and that the cancer does not recur. Once in remission, patients should keep in touch with their doctors for periodical checkups, and follow up treatment.