Malignant mesothelioma (me-zoe-thee-lee-O-muh) is a type of cancer that affects the thin layer of tissue that surrounds most of your inner organs (mesothelium).
Mesothelioma is a cancer that is both deadly and aggressive. Mesothelioma treatments are available, but a cure is not possible for many people with mesothelioma.
Doctors classify mesothelioma based on which part of the mesothelium is affected. The most prevalent site of mesothelioma is the tissue that surrounds the lungs (pleura).. The medical word for this type of cancer is pleural mesothelioma. Other, less common types of mesothelioma affect tissue in the abdomen (peritoneal mesothelioma), the heart, and the testicles.
The signs and symptoms of mesothelioma differ depending on the location of the cancer.
Pleural mesothelioma, which affects the tissue that surrounds the lungs, can cause the following signs and symptoms:
- Chest ache
- Coughing that hurts
- Breathing difficulty
- Abnormal tissue lumps under the skin of your chest
- Unknown cause of weight loss
Peritoneal mesothelioma, which develops in abdominal tissue, can cause the following signs and symptoms:
- Pain in the abdomen
- Swelling in the abdomen
- Unknown cause of weight loss
Mesothelioma in other forms
Because these types of mesothelioma are extremely rare, the signs and symptoms of these diseases are unknown.
Pericardial mesothelioma, which affects the tissue that surrounds the heart, can cause symptoms such as difficulty breathing and chest pains.
Swelling or a tumor on a testicle may be the first sign of tunica vaginalis mesothelioma, which affects the tissue around the testicles.
When should you see a doctor?
If you’re concerned about any signs or symptoms, see your doctor. The signs and symptoms of mesothelioma aren’t specific to the disease and are more likely to be associated to other conditions due to the disease’s rarity. Ask your doctor to assess any persistent signs and symptoms that appear strange or troublesome. If you’ve been exposed to asbestos, tell your doctor.
In general, cancer starts when a cell’s DNA undergoes a series of changes (mutations). The Deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) has a set of instruction that notify a cell what to do.
The mutations cause the cell to reproduce and develop out of control. The aberrant cells create a tumor when they clump together.
Although studies have identified characteristics that may raise the risk of mesothelioma, it is unclear what causes the initial genetic alterations that rise to the disease. Cancers are most likely the result of a complex combination of many factors, including genetic disorders, your environment, your health, and your lifestyle choices.
Factors that are at risk
Asbestos exposure is the leading cause of mesothelioma. Mesothelioma has been the most common form of cancer caused by asbestos exposure.
Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral that can be found in nature. Asbestos fibers are strong and heat resistant, making them suitable in a range of applications such as insulation, brakes, roofing, and flooring.
Dust is created when asbestos is broken up, such as during the mining process or when asbestos insulation is removed.
If asbestos fibers are inhaled or swallowed, they will settle in the lungs or stomach, causing discomfort and perhaps leading to mesothelioma. The actual mechanism by which this happens is unknown. After asbestos exposure, mesothelioma can take anywhere from 20 to 60 years to develop.
The majority of people who are exposed to asbestos never develop mesothelioma. This suggests that other factors may play a role in whether or not someone develops mesothelioma. For example, you could be born with a predisposition to cancer or suffer from another illness that raises your risk.
The following factors may increase the risk of mesothelioma:
Personal asbestos exposure history Your risk of mesothelioma is greatly increased if you have been directly exposed to asbestos fibers at work or at home.
Living with someone who is an asbestos worker. Asbestos fibers can be carried home by people who have been exposed to them through their skin and clothing. Long-term exposure to these stray fibers can put others in the home at risk of mesothelioma. People who work in areas with high levels of asbestos can reduce their chances of bringing asbestos fibers home by showering and changing their clothes before leaving work.
There is a family history of mesothelioma. If your parent, sibling, or child has mesothelioma, you may be at a higher risk of developing the disease.
Radiation treatment to the chest. If you had radiation therapy for a chest cancer, you may be at a higher risk of developing mesothelioma.
As pleural mesothelioma spreads in the chest, it puts strain on the structures there. Complications may arise as a result of this, such as:
- Breathing difficulties
- Chest ache
- Swallowing Difficulties
- Pressure on the nerves and spinal cord causes pain.
Pleural effusion is an accumulation of fluid in the chest that can compress the lung nearby and make breathing difficult.
Reducing your asbestos exposure may reduce your risk of mesothelioma. Determine whether you work with asbestos.
The majority of mesothelioma patients were exposed to asbestos fibers at work. Employees who may be exposed to asbestos fibers are;
- Miners of Asbestos
- Shipyard employees
- Workers in demolition
- Mechanics of brakes
- Personnel from the armed forces
- Home renovators
Inquire with your employer about the possibility of asbestos exposure on the job.
Adhere to your employer’s safety regulations.
Wear protective equipment and observe all workplace safety precautions. You may also be required to shower and change out of your work clothes before going home or taking a lunch break. Consult your doctor about additional steps you can take to protect yourself from asbestos exposure.
Keep asbestos to a minimum in your home.
Asbestos is likely present in ancient apartments. In many cases, removing the asbestos is more dangerous than leaving it in place.
Asbestos fibers may become airborne after being broken up, where they can be inhaled. Consult with experts who have been trained to detect asbestos in your home; instead, hire a qualified professional.
If you have signs and symptoms of mesothelioma, your doctor will perform a physical exam to look for lumps or other unusual signs.
To look for abnormalities, your doctor may order imaging scans such as a chest X-ray and a computerized tomography (CT) scan of your chest or abdomen.
Based on the results, you may be subjected to additional testing to determine whether you have mesothelioma or another disease.
The treatment you receive for mesothelioma is determined by your overall health as well as certain aspects of your cancer, such as its stage and location.
Unfortunately, mesothelioma is a highly aggressive disease for which there is no cure. Mesothelioma is typically diagnosed at an advanced stage, when the cancer cannot be removed surgically. Instead, your doctor may work to keep your cancer under control in order to make you more comfortable.
Discuss your treatment objectives with your doctor. Some people are willing to go to any length to treat their cancer, even if it means suffering side effects in exchange for a slim chance of improvement.
Others prefer treatments that make them feel better so that they can spend the rest of their lives as symptom-free as possible.
Other types of mesothelioma treatment
Pericardial mesothelioma and tunica vaginalis mesothelioma are extremely rare. Surgery can be used to remove early-stage cancer. However, doctors have yet to determine the best way to treat advanced cancers. Other treatments may be suggested by your doctor to improve your quality of life.