Mesothelioma is a rare form of cancer associated with exposure to asbestos. Mesothelioma occurs in the mesothelial membrane that surrounds the body’s internal organs. There are three recognized types of mesothelioma. Pleural mesothelioma is the most common and affects the pleural lining of the lung and chest wall. Peritoneal mesothelioma occurs in the lining of the abdominal cavity. Pericardial mesothelioma is the least common variety and affects the pericardial membrane, which surrounds the heart. All mesotheliomas are considered aggressive tumors and metastasize rapidly to other parts of the body.
Mesothelioma currently has no cure but that does not imply that it is untreatable. Several different treatment regimens are available to patients depending on their general health and the staging of the disease at diagnosis. Like most other cancers, mesothelioma patients are treated most often with some combination of chemotherapy, radiation, and surgical techniques. Exact treatment regimens will be different for each patient and will, again, depend on the health of the patient and the stage of the disease.
Mesothelioma and Asbestos
Mesothelioma is typically diagnosed in patients with previous asbestos exposure history. Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral which was utilized in a number of different industrial jobsites and products until it was found to be carcinogenic in the late 1970’s. Those diagnosed with mesothelioma often worked closely with asbestos containing materials, such as insulation, drywall, plastics, and pipe linings. Asbestos fibers are microscopic and irritate the inner organ tissue if they are inhaled or ingested. There is a great deal of latency associated with mesothelioma and asbestos exposure. Often patients are diagnosed 30-50 years after exposure to asbestos.
Mesothelioma and Asbestos Jobsites
Asbestos was used in a number of different jobsites, but some more than others. Many of those diagnosed with mesothelioma worked in shipyards, where asbestos was commonly used to insulate vessel fixtures and included in other vessel-construction material. Other patients diagnosed with mesothelioma worked in power plants and factories, where asbestos materials insulated piping, boilers, and electrical fixtures.
Last modified: February 15, 2010.