Malignant mesothelioma refers to the cancerous variety of a tumor that develops within the lining of the body’s internal organs. These thin linings are known as mesothelium, which is the root word for mesothelioma. All moving organs require at least some degree of lubrication to prevent abrasion between the moving parts of the body’s internal structures. These thin linings, some of which are only a few cells thick, assist in the lubrication of these structures.
Among malignant mesothelioma varieties, there are three sub-classifications designated by the specific body lining they affect. The most common of these is malignant pleural mesothelioma, which affects the pleural lining of the lung. Another is malignant peritoneal mesothelioma, which originates within the peritoneal lining of the abdominal cavity. The rarest sub-classification of the disease is malignant pericardial mesothelioma, which originates in the pericardial lining of the heart.
Malignant mesothelioma is caused by asbestos exposure in any of its classifications. Asbestos, when inhaled or introduced to the body by ingestion or otherwise, becomes lodged in the lining of the body’s internal organs. Upon settling inside the body, the body is unable to discharge or break down chemically because the material is so durable. The fibers then cause a chronic inflammation of the surrounding tissue. Inflammation leads to the development of harmful scar tissue and eventually the growth of tumors. Even though it is extremely rare, the ideal way to ensure that you don’t develop the disease is through the avoidance of all asbestos containing materials.
Treatment can vary from patient to patient in malignant mesothelioma cases. While there is no cure for mesothelioma in any of its classifications, nearly all patients will receive some sort of mesothelioma treatment to extend life expectancy and lessen discomfort. Three options exist for patients. Surgery is feasible if the cancer is at a manageable stage and surgery could likely extent their patient’s prognosis beyond what other methods of treatment would be able to. More likely however, at the time of diagnosis the cancer will be at a stage at which the patient will be ineligible for surgery and will be better served by other forms of treatment, such as chemotherapy and radiation therapy. In any case, the patient will thoroughly discuss what treatment is the best choice for them and their family with a cancer specialist or other doctor.
Each day, oncologists and other doctors are researching new methods of treatment for malignant mesothelioma. However, the ultimate goal remains finding a cure for the disease and finally eradicating this difficult cancer.
- American Cancer Society: Detailed Guide. What is Malignant Mesothelioma?. http://www.cancer.org/docroot/CRI/content/CRI_2_4_1X_What_is_malignant_mesothelioma_29.asp?rnav=cri
- Cancer Help, UK http://www.cancerhelp.org.uk/help/default.asp?page=4465
- American Cancer Society: "How is Malignant Mesothelioma Diagnosed". http://www.cancer.org/docroot/CRI/content/CRI_2_4_3X_How_is_malignant_mesothelioma_diagnosed_29.asp?rnav=cri
Last modified: April 07, 2010.