Mesothelioma is an uncommon word for many. It is actually a rare type of cancer – around 2,000 new cases are diagnosed annually in the US. However, the figure is increasing in all the other parts of the world. So, what is mesothelioma and how can a person have this cancer? According to studies, most of the cases were found to have originated from a long exposure to asbestos, years or even decades before it has sprung to a full blown cancer. It is alarming, yes but the good news is that there are ways to prevent this type of cancer.
Simply put, mesothelioma is a cancer of the mesothelium. It is the membrane that surrounds the linings of certain body organs like the lungs, heart and abdominal cavity. The three major types of mesothelioma cancer are:
- Pleural – pertaining to pleura or the lining of the lungs. This is also the most common among the all the types.
- Peritoneal – pertaining to the lining of the abdominal cavity.
- Pericardial – pertaining to the linings of the heart.
Causes of Mesothelioma
What is mesothelioma? When asbestos fibers are inhaled, it dwells on human tissues which causes infection and/or inflammation and that proves to be detrimental to a person’s health. That is one common cause of the cancer. In most cases, it is the frequent exposure of asbestos. However, there are other causes resulting to mesothelioma cancer like exposure to radiation, exposure to a virus called simian or SV40 and a genetic susceptibility. Some people have body systems that are more prone to develop this kind of illness.
The symptoms do not appear early on. Since Mesothelioma symptoms are similar to other less-serious health conditions, diagnosis of it can be quite erroneous until it’s already full blown.
With Pleural mesothelioma however, patients complain chest pain usually just below the ribs, and shortness of breath, lumps under the chest, and fatigue.
Peritoneal mesothelioma symptoms include anemia, abnormal blood clotting, abdominal pain, bowel obstruction, weight loss, and nausea. Bloating may also be experienced.
Pericardial symptoms often include Irregular heartbeat and palpitations, chest pain, shortness of breath, and night sweats.
Other mesothelioma symptoms include dysphagia or difficulty in swallowing and testicular lumps for testicular symptoms (some painful and other which has no sensation at all).
Since there are a lot of symptoms involving mesothelioma, physicians usually take careful history check, including a series of questions about a patient’s history: genetic, environment and employment. A physical examination is to be performed as well.
A series of exams including x-rays of the abdomen and chest will be done. Biopsy procedures are needed to test the samples of tissues and fluids which will determine any presence of cancerous or active cells. Further steps might be taken to carefully diagnose the illness which includes MRI scans, PET scans, and CT scans. Oftentimes, it is necessary to undergo a combination of these tests to accurately determine the exact type of cancer, the concentration as well as the size.
Prevention of Mesothelioma
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) have set safety standards against exposure to asbestos for people who may be at risk on the job. Strictly following the guidelines set will minimize the instances of acquiring mesothelioma not only for the individuals who are exposed to asbestos but for their families as well. Your work clothes must not be worn outside of work – particles stick to the cloth and can be transferred to people you come in contact with.
Before starting any home remodeling, check beforehand if there are asbestos insulations in where you will be working. If the building or home was constructed before 1950’s, it is note-worthy to hire a contractor who is already certified in asbestos management. To risk your life because of ignorance can be deadly.
Treatment options vary on size of the cancer, location of the tumor, or if the cancer has already spread. Mesothelioma treatment options may include surgery. It is highly considered especially if the cancer is still at an early stage. There are two types of surgery:
- Pleurectomy – In this process, a part of pleura is removed.
- Extrapleural pneumonectomy – In this process, not only the pleura is removed but also a part of the pericardium or the heart lining, lung, and diaphragm or the muscle between chest and abdomen.
Having mesothelioma is unimaginable because it affects physical and emotional conditions of the person. But with proper treatment and care, this will definitely be a winning battle!