Mesothelioma is a rare cancer that attacks the delicate layer of tissue that covers and protects internal organs, which is called the mesothelium. According to the American Cancer Society, there are approximately 3,500 new cases of cancer mesothelioma diagnosed each year. There is no cure for cancer mesothelioma and the treatments that are available only manage the symptoms and at times extend life for a brief period of time.
There are four varieties of cancer mesothelioma. Pleural malignant mesothelioma is a cancer of the tissue that surrounds the lungs and is the most common variety of cancer mesothelioma. Peritoneal mesothelioma is a cancer of the tissue that surrounds the abdomen or stomach. Pericardial mesothelioma is a cancer of the tissue that surrounds the heart. The fourth type is called Tunica vaginilis cancer mesothelioma which attacks the tissue lining the testicles.
Causes, Symptoms & Treatment
The most common cause of mesothelioma is asbestos exposure. It is believed that mesothelioma is caused by the inhaling and/or swallowing of asbestos dust. People who reside with someone who has worked with asbestos are also at risk, because asbestos dust can be carried around on clothing and skin.
Mesothelioma symptoms can lay dormant for 25 years or more. Because symptoms can take years to develop and do not appear until the cancer is in an advanced stage, recognizing the symptoms can be a challenge. Most of the symptoms also mimic the symptoms of less serious diseases. It is important to be more diligent in noticing symptoms if you have a history of asbestos exposure.
A common symptom of mesothelioma is a persistent, raspy cough that does not produce phlegm or mucus. In many cases the coughing up of blood is a major symptom of mesothelioma.
Shortness of breath and/or difficulty breathing is caused when the tissue surrounding the lung becomes thickened with disease.
Chest pain can be caused by disease irritation of the lungs.
Pluerodesis is a surgical procedure that involves injecting talc into the lungs in order to prevent fluid buildup.
Thoracentesis is a surgical procedure where a thin needle is inserted in the lung in order to drain excess fluid.
Pleurectomy is a more invasive surgical procedure where the lining of the lungs is removed in order to relieve the buildup of fluid.
Radiation may be used to manage symptoms, which is also known as palliative care. Patients who do not meet the surgical criteria are usually offered radiation in place of surgery. Radiation is usually administered five days a week over a five week period. The radiation is given externally using a high beam radiation gun, which shoots radiation into the affected area to kill any cancer cells.
Chemotherapy is often prescribed for mesothelioma patients. Alimta and Cisplatin are the two most common chemotherapy drugs for mesothelioma and they are injected directly into the chest or abdominal cavity. This injection method is more effective than intravenous chemotherapy that is given through an IV inserted in a vein. Like the other treatments, chemotherapy is used to manage symptoms, it is not a cure.
- Mesothelioma is serious, but it is also a rare disease.
- Call your doctor if you are at high risk for mesothelioma and suffer from symptoms.
- Let your doctor know if you are at high risk for mesothelioma, even if you do not have symptoms.
- Early detection raises the survival rate.
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