What is mesothelioma?
Mesothelioma is a type of cancer that occurs in the thin layer of tissue that covers most of the internal organs in the body. There are different types of mesothelioma, distinguished by what part of the mesothelium is affected.
- Pleural mesothelioma: mostly affects the tissue that surrounds the lungs
- Peritoneal/pericardial mesothelioma: affects tissue in the abdomen, around the heart (rarer), and around the testicles
What causes mesothelioma?
Many people who are diagnosed with mesothelioma have worked on jobs where they inhaled asbestos particles or who have lived with someone who works near these particles. However, the symptoms of mesothelioma can take upwards of 20-50 years to appear after initial exposure to asbestos.
What are the symptoms of mesothelioma?
Symptoms of mesothelioma include the following:
- Trouble breathing or cough
- Pain under the rib cage
- Pain, swelling, or lumps in the abdomen
- Fluid buildup in the lungs or abdomen
- Weight loss for no known reason
- Anemia, especially in women
How is mesothelioma diagnosed?
Sometimes it is difficult to distinguish between malignant mesothelioma and lung cancer by just a clinical examination and patient history, so a doctor uses imaging tests and a biopsy to make the diagnosis. With this being said, malignant mesothelioma is often diagnosed after it is in advanced stages.
What are the available treatments for mesothelioma?
Even though there is currently no cure for mesothelioma, there are four different types of standard treatment options that can help the prognosis. These are:
- Surgery to remove the cancer tumor(s)
- Radiation therapy to kill cancer cells or prevent them from growing
- Chemotherapy drugs
- Targeted therapy, such as monoclonal antibody therapy or kinase inhibitors
In addition to these, biologic therapy using the patient’s immune system is currently being tested for its safety and efficacy in treating mesothelioma.
Where can I find more information on mesothelioma?