Mesothelioma is a rare cancer that develops almost exclusively from exposure to asbestos. It is an aggressive form of cancer that affects cells of the mesotheluim, form the lining to vital organs, such as the lungs, heart, and abdomen. Most individuals who have been diagnosed with mesothelioma worked around asbestos, and inhaled the fibers into their lungs. At one time, this type of cancer was very rare. However, since symptoms of mesothelioma do not occur until 20-50 years after exposure to asbestos, the disease is now becoming more prevalent. Since mesothelioma symptoms are similar to other cancers and diseases, reaching a diagnosis can be a difficult process. There are no specific tests to help diagnosis mesothelioma, but doctors use MRI and CT Scans to rule out other diseases. Often, biopsies are needed, especially if there are tumors evident.
The most common symptom of mesothelioma is continuous chest pain and difficulty breathing. Other common symptoms can include:
- Fluid around the lung
- Wheezing, hoarseness, or cough
- Coughing up blood
- Abdominal swelling and pain
- Problems with bowel function
- Sudden, unexplained weight loss
- Foreign lumps in the tissue of the chest or abdomen
Types of Mesothelioma
There are several types of mesothelioma, categorized by which part of the body is affected. Pleural mesothelioma affects the pleura, which is the thin membrane lining lung cavity. People who have been exposed to large amounts of asbestos are typically diagnosed with this disease.
Peritoneal mesothelioma is a form of mesothelioma that attacks the peritoneum. The peritoneum is a thin membrane that surrounds and protects the organs in the abdomen. This form of mesothelioma is rare, and is only found in less than 500 people per year.
Pericardial mesothelioma is even rarer than peritoneal mesothelioma. Found in less than 10% of all mesothelioma cases, this disease affects the pericardium, which surrounds and protects the heart.
The symptoms associated with mesothelioma are also associated with a number of other conditions. So, if you experience persistent or worsening symptoms, contact your physician.