Mesothelioma is a type of cancer found in the mesothelium, a covering that protects most of the body's internal organs. The mesothelium has two layers: one acts as skin to a certain organ and the other is like a sac that surrounds it. These layers produce lubrication so that organs can glide easily against each other. Example: the heart beats while the lungs expand and contract. Mesothelium is called 'pericardium' when covering the heart, 'pleura' when surrounding the lungs, and 'peritoneum' when lining the different organs in the abdomen.
What is Mesothelioma?
Mesothelioma is a malignant disease where cells of mesothelium act abnormal and divide uncontrollably. Most cases begin in the pleura and peritoneum. Pleural and Peritoneal Mesothelioma
are common forms of this rare cancer. Although still considered
uncommon, the disease often occurs to individuals who have
been exposed to asbestos at work. At least about 70 to 80 percent of cases are caused by asbestos exposure. However, some cases have no known causes.
Commercial use of asbestos had begun in the late 1800s and increased during World War II. Millions of American workers were exposed to asbestos dust. People who worked in asbestos mines and mills, factories that produce asbestos products, and the heating and construction industries have greater risk to develop the cancer. Families who lived with asbestos workers are also at risk.
Common symptoms of the disease, which usually appear 30 to 50 years after exposure to asbestos, include: shortness of breath, pain in the chest, weight loss, abdominal pain, swelling of the abdomen, bowel obstruction, abnormal blood clotting, anemia, fever, trouble in swallowing, pain, and swelling of neck and face.
Diagnosing can be difficult because most symptoms resemble other conditions. Medical tests like x-rays, CT scan, MRI, and biopsy are performed on the patient so the disease can be confirmed. After diagnosing, the doctor will then determine how far the cancer has spread. Unfortunately, the disease is not curable. Several treatment options are available: chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and surgery.