What Is Mesothelioma - Understanding Asbestos Cancer

What is mesothelioma? If you have been exposed to asbestos, this might be the top question in your mind. Unfortunately, it is a disease that could have been prevented because of a substance that is now illegal. Many innocent victims’ lives have been forever changed because they were unknowingly exposed to this dangerous substance. Thankfully, it affects only a small number of people.

In spite of the small numbers, it is vitally important to have some understanding of the disease, because symptoms do not often appear in the earliest stages when treatment is most effective. Usually, by the time symptoms appear, the disease is well advanced.

What is Mesothelioma? - Understanding the Disease

So, what is mesothelioma? Essentially, it is a very rare form of cancer that effects very specific tissues: the mesothelium. This tissue is a very thin layer that covers all the organs of your body (3). Asbestos fibers are inhaled or ingested, and can lodge in this tissue, remaining for years, and causing inflammation, scarring, and deformation. This leads to cancer. Mesothelioma cancer types are divided by the area of the body they affect:

  • Pleural – the most common form of mesothelioma affects the lungs. This accounts for 75% of all mesothelioma cases.
  • Peritoneal – the next most common form has its origins in the lining of the abdominal area.
  • Mesothelioma of the Tunica Vaginalis – the rarest form affects the testicles.
  • Pericardial – this form affects the linings of the heart.

The symptoms of mesothelioma vary based on the type but can include weight loss, unusual lumps of tissue, pain, and, in lung cases, painful coughing and shortness of breath (4). Because early symptoms are common to many diseases, it may take some time before mesothelioma is diagnosed.

Diagnosis is a process, rather than a single step. Routine scanning is not usually done for people exposed to asbestos, so it often depends on the disease reaching a stage where it causes a large number of symptoms. At that point, a doctor will likely use the following methods for diagnosis:

  • Medical History and Current Symptoms
  • Imaging Tests - x-rays, CT scans, PET scans, and MRI scans can reveal physical abnormalities caused by asbestos poisoning.
  • Tissue and Fluid Samples - if the images cause suspicion, fluid and tissue samples are used to make diagnosis.
  • Blood tests - certain substances in the blood are markers for mesothelioma.

The prognosis for mesothelioma patients is not good, especially since diagnosis often takes place in advanced stages. There is no known cure, but there are therapies that can help quality of life and pain levels.

  1. http://www.cancer.org/cancer/malignantmesothelioma/overviewguide/malignant-mesothelioma-overview-risk-factors
  2. http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/mesothelioma/DS00779/DSECTION=symptoms

Learn More:

Mesothelioma Facts You Deserve To Know

What do you need to know about mesothelioma? Facts about the dangers of asbestos rocked the world in the early 1980’s, but many people are still in the dark about this.

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