Malignant mesothelioma is a rare cancer that is comprised of two main types: pleural mesothelioma (lung lining) and peritoneal mesothelioma (abdominal cavity lining). Although cases of pericardial (heart lining) and testicular (testicle lining) mesothelioma have been reported, these are extremely rare.
Asbestos exposure is responsible for nearly all mesothelioma cases. Exposure to this naturally occurring mineral can happen when it is disturbed in its natural state in the environment or when asbestos-containing materials are damaged.
Before regulations on the use of asbestos were implemented in the 1970s and ‘80s, asbestos was incorporated into more than 5,000 products. Many of these products were for the construction and shipyard industry, but several other occupational settings have been affected and include:
Asbestos was primarily utilized for its ability to insulate and fireproof materials, but it was also cheap and very durable. For these reasons, asbestos was used even though the health risks were well understood by medical professionals.
Symptoms of mesothelioma are very similar to more commonly diagnosed conditions like pneumonia and asthma. Symptoms of pleural mesothelioma typically include coughing, shortness of breath, fatigue and chest pain. For peritoneal mesothelioma, symptoms might include abdominal pain and weight loss.
Unfortunately, mesothelioma symptoms can take decades to arise from the time of someone’s initial exposure to asbestos because it takes decades for the cancer to develop. In most cases, symptoms develop after the cancer has already reached an advanced stage.
A patient’s prognosis is influenced by several factors, including stage of the cancer, type of mesothelioma, size of the tumor and whether tumors can be surgically removed.
Overall health and age also affect prognosis. In many cases, prognosis for mesothelioma patients ranges between four and 18 months, but many patients have surpassed these averages with an early diagnosis.
Early Detection Affects Treatment
The common late-stage diagnosis associated with mesothelioma often limits treatment options because of the extent of the disease.
When someone is diagnosed with late-stage mesothelioma, most treatments aim to relieve symptoms and prolong survival. However, an early diagnosis, such as stage I or II mesothelioma, can be treated with potentially curative surgery. Chemotherapy and radiation are two other common treatments used by doctors.
Although no cure exists, new treatment developments are prolonging the survival of many patients and increasing their quality of life.
This post submitted by Jensen Whitmer who has been writing for the Mesothelioma Center for more than three years and he has an interest in spreading awareness about the hazardous effects of asbestos exposure.