Mesothelioma is a form of cancer that is caused by exposure to asbestos. In this disease, malignant cells develop in the mesothelium, a protective lining that covers most of the body’s internal organs.
The most common sites for this disease are as follows:
- Pleura – Outer lining of the lungs and internal chest wall
- Peritoneum – The lining of the abdominal cavity,
- Pericardium – The sac that surrounds the heart
- Tunica Vaginalis – The membrane covering the testis
People who develop Mesothelioma have worked in job locations where they inhaled asbestos particles or they have been exposed to asbestos dust and fiber. Research also suggests that people who are working in close association with those handling asbestos are also at risk of developing this disease. Unlike lung cancer, there is no association between Mesothelioma and smoking, but smoking greatly increases risk of other asbestos-induced cancer.
Symptoms of Mesothelioma may not appear until 20 to 50 years after exposure to asbestos. The symptoms are as follows:
- Shortness of breath due to pleural effusion (fluid between the lung and the chest wall)
- Chest pain
- Weight loss
- Wheezing and hoarseness in the throat
- Blood in the fluid coughed
In severe cases of the disease, the following signs and symptoms may be present:
- Blood clots in the veins
- Disseminated intravascular coagulation: a disorder causing severe bleeding in many body organs
- Jaundice or yellowing of the eyes and skin
- Low blood sugar level
- Pleural effusion
- Pulmonary emboli or blood clots in the arteries of the lungs
- Severe ascites that is an accumulation of fluid within the two membranes that separate the organs in the abdominal cavity from the abdominal wall.
Diagnosing Mesothelioma is often tricky because the symptoms are similar to those of numerous other conditions. In most cases, the diagnosis begins with a review of the patient’s medical history to gauge whether the patient has been exposed to asbestos or not. In order to better gauge the severity of a patient’s exposure to asbestos, a physical examination is performed followed by chest X-ray and often lung function tests. If the X-ray reveals pleural thickening, which is commonly seen after asbestos exposure increases the suspicion of Mesothelioma in the patient.
To confirm this suspicion, a CT or MRI scan is conducted. If the scan confirms the deposition of fluid in the lungs then the fluid is extracted and a biopsy is conducted for tissue sample from this fluid. Once the biopsy confirms the presence of malignant cells in the body the diagnosis of Mesothelioma is complete
During early stages of malignant Mesothelioma, a treatment using conventional therapies in combination with radiation or chemotherapy has proved to be successful in more than 75% of cases. These treatments have helped in extending the patient’s life span by five years or more that is cancer has gone into remission as a result of these treatments. Surgery which was proved to be helpful in alleviating the effects of many other forms of cancer has largely proved to be ineffective in the treatment of Mesothelioma.