What is Mesothelioma ?

Monday, November 15, 2010

Mesothelioma is a type of cancer that is caused by exposure to asbestos.  Malignant cells develop in the mesothelium.  The mesothelium is a protective lining that covers most of the human body's internal organs. The most common location is the pleura which is the outer lining of the lungs and internal chest wall. Mesothelioma can also occur in the
peritoneum which is the lining of the abdominal cavity, the pericardium which is a sac that surrounds the heart, or in the heart itself.

The majority of people who develop mesothelioma have worked in jobs where they were exposed to asbestos.  Inhaling asbestos particles, leads to mesothelioma.  People who develop may also have been exposed to asbestos fibers or dust in other ways. It could be possible that washing the clothes of a family member who worked with asbestos could put a person at risk of mesothelioma. 

Unlike lung cancer, there is no association between mesothelioma and smoking, but smoking greatly increases risk of other asbestos-induced cancer.  Compensation via asbestos funds or lawsuits is an important issue with mesothelioma sufferers.

Although chemotherapy and surgery are the most common forms of treatment, participating in clinical trials can provide you with alternative mesothelioma treatment options. Increased awareness of mesothelioma and other asbestos-caused diseases has led to an increase on medical research to cure and control asbestos-caused cancers and related asbestos heart and respiratory diseases.  Despite treatment with chemotherapy, radiation therapy or sometimes surgery, the disease carries a poor prognosis. Research about screening tests for the early detection of mesothelioma is ongoing.

The symptoms of mesothelioma include shortness of breath due to pleural effusion or fluid between the lung and the chest wall.  Chest wall pain, and general symptoms such as weight loss are other symptoms. The diagnosis may be suspected with chest X-ray and CT scan, and is confirmed with a microscopic examination and biopsy.  Inserting a tube with a camera into the chest can be used to take biopsies. It allows the introduction of substances such as talc to obliterate the pleural space, which prevents more fluid from accumulating and pressing on the lung.


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