Mesothelioma is a rare type of cancer that occurs in the lining of the body's internal organs, a thin layer of cells known as the mesothelium, which gives mesothelioma its name. While very thin, this layer of cells is vitally important to organ function and the health of the inner body structures. There are three recognized types of mesothelioma. Pleural mesothelioma occurs in the pleural lining of the lungs and is the most common form of the disease. Peritoneal mesothelioma occurs within the peritoneum, which lines the abdominal cavity and is the second most common form of the disease. Pericardial mesothelioma is the rarest variety of the disease and occurs in the pericardial lining of the heart. The primary cause of mesothelioma is exposure to asbestos, though other factors, such as smoking may increase the likeliness of mesothelioma in certain individuals.
How is Mesothelioma Treated?
Mesothelioma is an aggressive cancer but can be managed with chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and surgery. Currently, there is no known cure for asbestos cancer but several mesothelioma treatment regimens have proven to be successful in helping the mesothelioma patient avoid pain and discomfort caused by the disease. Several therapies have emerged in recent years that have extended survival rates of mesothelioma patients to levels previously thought to be impossible. Cancer centers have initiated hundreds of clinical trials in recent years to help mesothelioma patients find a therapy that works for them while still working towards a cure for future mesothelioma patients. Progressive therapies are now being developed through the International Mesothelioma Program under the direction of thoracic specialist Dr. David Sugarbaker.
How is Mesothelioma Diagnosed?
Malignant mesothelioma can be difficult to diagnose because symptoms of the disease often closely mimic those of less serious conditions. Mesothelioma diagnosis often require X-ray and other body scans (CT or MRI) in addition to a biopsy to conclusively diagnose mesothelioma. Nevertheless, those experiencing chronic cough, difficulty swallowing, chest pain, or breathing difficulties should alert their physician immediately. This is particularly true among those with a known asbestos-exposure history. Those with asbestos exposure history should communicate this to their physician even before mesothelioma symptoms appear so that they may be able to alert patients to warning signs of the disease. If detected early enough, patients may be eligible for aggressive mesothelioma treatment options, including surgical resection of the mesothelioma cancer and affected tissue. Oncologists and thoracic specialists will be able to assist the patient in determining the extent of the disease and the best mesothelioma treatment options for that particular patient.
Asbestos exposure was common among industrial workers. Among the more common jobsites were those in the shipbuilding industry, such as the Todd Shipyards or Newport News Naval Shipyard. Other jobsites include power plants, chemical manufacturing, or the metal works industry. Those with asbestos history should notify their doctor and learn of possible warning signs of mesothelioma caused by exposure. Those who have been made sick by asbestos exposure, including those with a mesothelioma, should fill out the form on this page to receive a free asbestos and mesothelioma information kit detailing top doctors, new mesothelioma treatments, and how to obtain financial compensation for mesothelioma disease.
Last modified: January 31 2015.