Mesothelioma tumors are the clusters of malignant cells which form inside the body of those diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma. Mesothelioma is a rare cancer that occurs within the mesothelial membrane, which lines the inner structures and organs within the body. Mesothelioma is typically known only be associated with exposure to asbestos. Asbestos is a natural mineral which has fibrous but microscopic components and is easily inhaled. Mesothelioma has three recognized types, the location and origin of the tumor dictates the type of mesothelioma. The three varieties of mesothelioma are pleural mesothelioma, peritoneal mesothelioma, and pericardial mesothelioma.
Pleural mesothelioma is the most common type of malignant mesothelioma tumor, accounting for approximately 70% of all mesothelioma incidences. Malignant cells grow within the pleura, a thin membrane surrounding the lungs. This membrane allows the lungs to expand and contract within the chest cavity without obstruction. Asbestos fibers typically are inhaled and lodge in the surface of the pleura, causing scar tissue formation. Tumors then form on the pleural “plaques” caused by this scar tissue.
Peritoneal mesothelioma is less common but still accounts for approximately 20% of all mesothelioma cases. Peritoneal mesothelioma forms within the peritoneum, a thin membrane encompassing the abdominal cavity. Ingested asbestos fibers will typically penetrate the digestive tract to irritate the peritoneum, causing a similar scarring and plaque buildup as that of pleural mesothelioma.
Pericardial mesothelioma is the rarest variety of the disease, diagnosed in roughly 100 people each year within the United States. Pericardial mesothelioma occurs within the pericardium, which encompasses the heart. The pericardium lubricates the outer tissue of the heart allowing it to expand and contract within the chest cavity without interfering with other organ function. The precise path with which asbestos fibers reach the pericardium is not known, though most patients diagnosed with pericardial mesothelioma have some level of asbestos history.
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- American Cancer Society. Detailed Guide What is Malignant Mesothelioma?http://www.cancerhelp.org.uk/help/default.asp?page=4465
- Cancer Help, UK.http://www.cancer.org/docroot/CRI/content/CRI_2_4_1X_What_is_malignant_mesothelioma_29.asp?rnav=cri
- American Cancer Society. Detailed Guide: Malignant Mesothelioma Radiation Therapies.http://www.cancer.org/docroot/CRI/content/CRI_2_4_4X_Radiation_Therapy_29.asp?sitearea
Last modified: February 15, 2010.