Mesothelioma is a rare form of cancer that is caused by exposure to asbestos. The disease advances when asbestos fibers accumulate in the mesothelium lining of the lungs, stomach, heart, or testes causing inflammation and scarring.
Over time, this chronic inflammation leads to the formation of cancerous mesothelial cells within the mesothelium.
What Causes Mesothelioma Cancer?
Since 1935, the link between asbestos exposure and mesothelioma has been known, and over the last 70 years, compelling medical research has confirmed that cancer-causing nature of asbestos.
Today, our understanding of the causes of mesothelioma are more informed than ever before.
Mesothelioma has a latency period of 10-50 years, meaning the disease takes a decade or more to develop after exposure to asbestos. It is caused when people inhale or ingest asbestos fibers. When inhaled or swallowed, toxic asbestos fibers accumulate in the lungs, lung lining and peritoneum, which is the lining of the stomach.
This lining is known as the mesothelium and protects the bodies internal organs by forming a smooth and slippery protective layer. The toxic asbestos fibers then cause inflammation of the mesothelial cells and this severe and prolonged inflammation causes healthy mesothelial cells to become malignant and cancerous.
People at the greatest risk are those who were faced long-term exposure to asbestos. According to the OHSA, people who experienced prolonged exposure have the highest risk of developing mesothelioma, and there is a strong medical link between the number of asbestos fibers in the lining of the lungs and mesothelioma.
Types of Mesothelioma and Symptoms
There are four types of mesothelioma. The most common is pleural mesothelioma, which attacks the lining of the lungs. Peritoneal mesothelioma, which develops in the stomach lining, is the second most common form of the disease.
- Pleural Mesothelioma: Pleural mesothelioma affects the lining of the lungs. This lining is known as the pleura and is a protective lining of the lungs which fills with fluid and allows the area to expand and contract smoothly. This type of mesothelioma is the most common and accounts for 70+ percent of new diagnoses. Since this form of the cancer tends to be diagnosed in later stages, pleural mesothelioma has a poor prognosis and symptoms often progress rapidly.
- Peritoneal Mesothelioma: Peritoneal mesothelioma develops in the lining of the stomach and upper abdomen. This lining is known as the peritoneum which protects the organs within the abdomen. Peritoneal mesothelioma accounts for about 20 to 30 percent of new mesothelioma diagnoses. Thanks to innovative new treatments, prognoses have improved recently for this form of the disease. Yet, treatment outcomes are dependent on many different factors including the patient’s age, genetics, weight, how far along the mesothelioma progressed before it was diagnosed.
- Pericardial Mesothelioma: Pericardial mesothelioma forms in the protective lining of the heart, this lining protects the cavity of the body where the heart is located and allows the heart to function freely. A diagnosis of pericardial mesothelioma is extremely rare and accounts for a tiny fraction of diagnosed mesothelioma conditions somewhere in the range of 2-3% of diagnoses.
- Testicular Mesothelioma: Testicular mesothelioma forms in the protective lining of the testicles, this is also an extremely rare form of mesothelioma accounting for less than 2% of mesothelioma diagnoses.
What Are the Symptoms of Mesothelioma?
Pleural mesothelioma patients may experience a number of symptoms which can be mild or mimic other common illnesses.
Early warning signs of pleural mesothelioma include:
Advanced symptoms as pleural mesothelioma progresses may include:
- Severe chest Pain
- Unexplained weight loss
- Coughing Up Blood
- Chronic Coughing
- Lumps Under Skin of Chest
With Peritoneal mesothelioma, many patients do not experience symptoms, or symptoms are misdiagnosed. Symptoms may include:
As the peritoneal mesothelioma progresses, symptoms may include:
With Pericardial Mesothelioma symptoms may include:
- Difficulty Breathing
- Dry Cough
- Consistent fatigue
- Weight Loss
- Irregular Heartbeat
- Pressure on the Heart
- Heart Palpitations
- Heart Failure
As to Testicular Mesothelioma symptoms may include:
- Testicular pain
- Discomfort resembling testicular torsion.
Treatment Options for Mesothelioma Patients
Mesothelioma has no cure, but medical research has advanced greatly in recent years. Typically, treatment options for mesothelioma include chemotherapy, radiation, surgery, and experiential treatments. Often, patients may undergo multimodal therapy that involves two or more treatment methods.
- Surgery: Surgical procedures for mesothelioma patients can reduce or remove tumors. Not all patients are good candidates for surgery, which is dependent on a number of factors. For example, the location of the tumor, the patient’s health, and the stage of the cancer may all influence if surgery is a viable option. About 20 percent of patients with pleural mesothelioma have surgery performed.
- Chemotherapy: Chemotherapy is administered through oral or IV-based medications, which target cancer cells, and this widely used treatment can help to limit growth of cancer cells in the body. Chemotherapy may improve prognosis and survival rates.
- Radiation: Radiation has long been used for mesothelioma treatment. The treatment delivers radiation therapy to cancer cells, which help to kill and shrink tumors. Advanced radiation treatments like intensity-modulated radiotherapy (IMRT) are more precise, helping to improve the effectiveness of radiation.
- Clinical Trials: Experimental treatments are conducted by researchers, and these are newer, untested therapies for treating mesothelioma cancer. In general, patients must apply and be accepted in clinical studies.
If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with mesothelioma, you may be entitled to financial compensation. Learn more about your legal options and to be connected with the nation’s leading mesothelioma lawyers immediately.