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What is Malignant Mesothelioma: Facts, symptoms, causes and treatment

Updated on April 29, 2010

What is Malignant Mesothelioma?

Mesothelioma is a disease in which cells of the mesothelium become abnormal and divide without control or order. It is a rare form of cancer in which cancerous cells are found in the mesothelium (a protective sac that covers most of the body’s internal organs), as a result of this they can easily invade and damage nearby tissues and organs.

Malignant mesothelioma comes with a number of risks, the main risk being impending death .today, many firms are dedicated to pursuing mesothelioma cases and may be able to provide you information about such terrible condition. Those diagnosed with such form of cancer live about nine months beyond diagnosis and may not develop malignant mesothelioma until 20 years after exposure to asbestos. Malignant mesothelioma begins quite simply a tumor forms in the lining of cell membranes that cover major organs in the body called serous membranes, these structures work to protect internal organs from infection and other problems.

Mesothelioma Facts

Mesothelioma is almost exclusively caused by asbestos exposure ,most mesothelioma patients were occupationally exposed to asbestos ,a small percentage of patients received  secondary exposure from a family member who worked with asbestos and brought the fibers home clothing ,skin and hair .while others were environmentally exposed to natural asbestos deposits some others resided near an asbestos mine.

There is evidence that mesothelioma symptoms do not arise until later stage of development. An exposure of as little as a month or two can result  in mesothelioma 30 or 40 years later and in some cases ,as much as 70 years later .though it can take time to spread to the entire body .malignant mesothelioma can be treated earlier on and may increase  your chances of survival .according to scientists ,mesothelioma is a form of lung cancer which often results from smoking .but however ,in many cases ,the cancer is traced directly back to asbestos.

Not everyone who is exposed to asbestos will develop an asbestos will develop an asbestos-related disease .however; longterm exposure does indeed increase an individual’s possibility either through family member or naturally.

Mesothelioma Rates

Of recent, there is no cure for mesothelioma ,however ,early detection tests and new medications and therapies have begun to lengthen the life expectancy of today’s mesothelioma patients ,nonetheless, the disease remains a very aggressive form of cancer and survival rates depends on age, overall health ,and the type of mesothelioma the patient is battling .in general ,the average length of survival reported throughout  the last 5 years has been 10-11 months after diagnosis .

Approximately 2000-3000 new cases are reported each year in the U.S and more than 10,000 worldwide. Three times more men than women develop the disease .about 80% of diagnosed cases can be directly linked to a job where asbestos was present. Mesothelioma typically has a latency period of 20-50 years .it has also been discovered that the average age of a mesothelioma patient has been about 65 years old historically.

Causes of Mesothelioma

No one can control the air and it is for the same reason that you cannot realize when you about to inhale a tiny asbestos fibers .the single largest risk of malignant mesothelioma arise from exposure to airborne asbestos dust and fiber .for most of the last centuries ,asbestos was regarded  as  a very useful material  for making a variety of items fire-resistant ,pliable , resilient  ,and a number of other  desirable properties .it wasn’t until the 1970’s that contact with asbestos  was linked with malignant mesothelioma and by then millions of people had been exposed.

At personal level there is something you can do to reduce your likelihood of being infected at a faster rate such as quiting smoking habits.

At times, you may never know that the home you have lived with your family for so long could be a source of your serious problems like mesothelioma .this is because some houses roof is made of asbestos and perhaps if you harvest rain water, these particles could find their way to your reservoir. This will cause accumulation of these asbestos in your body when there is occasional consumption of these rain water.

Further complicating matter is that mesothelioma does not usually appear until decades after asbestos exposure.

Mesothelioma Doctor Explains Symptoms, Diagnosis and Treatment

Mesothelioma Symptoms

Before getting to the signs and symptoms of mesothelioma, it is important to distinguish between the 3 main types of malignant mesothelioma, the difference between them is caused by their different locations in the body .they include

Pleural mesothelioma: this is the most common type of mesothelioma and affects the protective lining f the lungs and diaphragm. It is about 75% in occurrence.

Peritoneal mesothelioma: it describes malignant mesothelioma that forms in the lining of the abdomen and around abdominal organs .it is about 10-20% in occurrence.

Pericardial Mesothelioma: this type of mesothelioma is very rare and affects the mesothelial tissues covering the heart.

Symptoms of mesothelioma may not appear until 30-50 years after exposure to asbestos. Malignant mesothelioma afflicts the major membrane of the body, starting out as tumors which rapidly spread to infect surrounding tissues and organs. Shortness of breath and pain in the chest due to an accumulation of fluid in the pleura are often symptoms of pleural mesothelioma.  

Symptoms of peritoneal mesothelioma include weight loss and abdominal pain and swelling due to a buildup of fluid in the abdomen. Other symptoms of peritoneal mesothelioma may include bowel obstruction, blood clothing abnormalities, anaemia and fever.

Malignant mesothelioma also can affect the lining that surrounds the heart, although this is the rarest form of mesothelioma .if the cancer has spread beyond the mesothelium to other parts of the body symptoms may include pain, trouble swallowing, or swelling of the neck or face.

Treatment for mesothelioma

Treatment for mesothelioma depends on the location of the cancer, the stage of the disease and the patient's age and general health. Some treatments adopted to deal with mesothelioma include;


*Radiation therapy

*Gene therapy

*Experimental medication.

Of the above three, the standard treatments for this cancer are the first three which are most times combined.

*Chemotherapy: this is the use of drugs to kill the cancer cells throughout the body .most drugs used are given by injection into a vein.

*surgery: this is a common treatment for mesothelioma .the doctor may remove part of the lining of the chest or abdomen and some of the tissues around it. Sometimes part of the diaphragm, the muscle below the lungs that helps with breathing is also removed.

*Radiation therapy: often known as radiotherapy involves the use of high energy rays to kill cancer cells and shrink tumors; the radiation may come from a machine (external radiation) or from putting materials that produce radiation through thin plastic tubes into the area where the cancer cells are found.

To relieve the pain, the doctor may use a needle or a thin tube to drain fluid that has built up in the chest or abdomen .this procedure of removing fluid from the chest is called paracentesis .

New treatments for mesothelioma are being studied.

Diagnosis for mesothelioma

Diagnosing mesothelioma is often difficult because the symptoms are similar to those of a number of other conditions; diagnosis begins with a review of the patient's medical history, including any history of asbestos exposure. A complete physical examination may be performed, including x-rays of the chest or abdomen and lung function tests. CAT scan or an MRI may be useful.A biopsy confirms a diagnosis of mesothelioma. In a biopsy, a surgeon or a medical oncologist removes a sample of tissues for examination under a microscope by a pathologist.

If the diagnosis is mesothelioma, the doctor will want to learn the stage of the disease; staging involves more tests to find out whether the cancer has spread and to which part of the body. This enables the doctor to plan treatment.

Mesothelioma is described as localized if the cancer is found only on the membrane surface where it originates; it is classified as advanced if it has spread beyond the original membrane surface to other parts of the body such as lymph nodes, lungs, chest wall, or abdominal organs.

If further examination is warranted the following tests may be carried out

*thoracoscopy and peritoneoscopy: unfortunately, in some cases tumor cells can grow along the tract where the biopsy is taken.

Prognosis for mesothelioma

Like most cancers, the prognosis for this disease often depends on how early it is diagnosed and how aggressive it is treated. Unfortunately, mesothelioma is often discovered at a stage in which a cure is unobtainable. many give in to the disease within one year of diagnosis.

Frequently Asked Questions bout Mesothelioma

What is cancer? A cancer develops when cells begin to grow and divide continually. Normally cells of our body divide and grow out to replace worn out tissues or to repair injuries .but damage to the DNA makes them grow out of control forming new abnormal cells. Tumor’s as it s mostly called ‘cancer’.

What is mesothelium? It is a membrane that forms the covering and protects most of the internal organs of our body.

Rate of affection: It is less common in African Americans than white Americans, and also about 3-5 times more in men than women.

Survival after mesothelioma Although many mesothelioma patients live more than 5 years after the diagnosis, the 5 year survival rate is used as a standard parameter of predicting the prognosis accurately.


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