Monday, December 22, 2014

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Malignant mesothelioma, otherwise known as mesothelioma cancer, commonly develops in the lungs of people exposed to asbestos. Effective treatments are available to ease symptoms and improve your prognosis.

The cancer usually affects the thin, protective membrane surrounding the lungs, heart or abdominal cavity. Doctors diagnose an estimated 3,000 cases a year in the United States, and the majority of those are traced to job-related asbestos exposure.

Although asbestos use declined dramatically in recent decades in this country, the incidence of malignant mesothelioma remains steady. That difference can be traced to the distinct latency period linked to the cancer. The disease can take anywhere from 20 to 50 years after exposure to asbestos before it shows obvious symptoms and an oncologist can make a definitive diagnosis. While no cure for the disease exists and the prognosis is typically poor, researchers made significant progress in recent years in understanding the cancer and developing new treatment options and alternative therapies.

How Asbestos Causes Cancer

Mesothelioma typically develops after exposure to asbestos in the workplace – in industrial settings, shipyards, auto repair shops, old houses, schools and public buildings. While it usually takes long-term exposure to put someone at risk, short-term and one-time exposures are also known to cause mesothelioma cancer.

70-80% of all mesothelioma cases are caused by asbestos exposure at work
Body Inhaling Asbestos  
Asbestos inhalation occurs
Asbestos Fibers lodging in the mesothelial tissue  
Fibers lodge in mesothelial tissue
 Asbestos Fibers in the mesothelial tissue  
Fibers cause cellular damage, resulting in tumor growth
Microscopic asbestos fibers are breathed in or swallowed, and the human body has difficulty destroying or getting rid of them. Over decades, fibers cause biological changes that result in inflammation, scarring and genetic damage. The most susceptible area to these fibers is the lining of the lungs, called the pleura, although fibers also can become trapped in the lining of the abdominal cavity (peritoneum). Once fibers cause biological damage, the stage is set for the decades-long latency period for the development of malignant mesothelioma.


Pleural malignant mesothelioma is the most common type of the disease, representing about 75 percent of cases. Peritoneal is the second most common type, consisting of about 10 to 20 percent of cases. Approximately 1 percent of cases are of the pericardial variety. Another rare type known as testicular mesothelioma represents less than 1 percent of cases.
Pleural Mesothelioma - Cancer of the Lung Lining


This type forms in the lining of the lungs. An increased incidence rate led to more studies to improve treatment methods and survival rates.
Peritoneal Mesothelioma - Cancer of the Abdomen Lining


Developing in the lining of the abdominal cavity, peritoneal cancer responds best to a combination of surgery and heated chemotherapy.
Pericardial Mesothelioma - Cancer of the Heart Lining


Emerging from the lining of the heart, pericardial cancer is the most challenging to treat because of where tumors are located.


Symptoms of malignant mesothelioma cancer are so mild that few people notice or recognize them, and many don't experience any of them until later stages of the cancer. Fatigue and slight pain around the tumor may surface in early stages. Late-stage symptoms are more noticeable and commonly provoke someone to visit the doctor.
These late-onset signs can include shortness of breath, chronic pain near the tumor, weight loss, fluid buildup or bowel obstruction. Effective therapies can relieve symptoms, and some treatments, like talc pleurodesis, can even prevent symptom recurrence.
  • Fatigue
  • Pain Near Tumor
  • Shortness of Breath
  • Weight Loss
  • Fluid Buildup
  • Bowel Obstruction

How It is Diagnosed

All patients have a unique path to a diagnosis, but the most important factors to an accurate diagnosis are imaging scans and biopsies. Doctors use several tests to diagnose malignant mesothelioma.


Treatment options for mesothelioma include surgery, chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy. Many specialists prefer to combine two or more of these treatments, an approach known as multimodal therapy. Clinical trials show this approach has improved survival rates.
Palliative treatments that ease symptoms are quite common for patients of all stages, and experimental therapies like immunotherapy show progress for the future. Additionally, many survivors tout less-traditional alternative treatments for helping them to live longer.
Surgery for Mesothelioma


Curative surgery is available for early stage patients, while palliative surgery is best for late-stage patients and helps to ease symptoms.
Chemotherapy for Mesothelioma


Chemotherapy is a standard treatment to kill malignant cells, shrink tumors, prevent recurrence and relieve symptoms.
Radiation for Mesothelioma


Radiation therapy is used alone or in combination with chemotherapy or surgery to kill cancer cells, manage tumors and prevent tumor seeding.


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Aqeel A. Zaman