Mesothelioma – Your Basic Information
Mesothelioma is a form of cancer that is becoming more and more common. The most common cause of this cancer is exposure to asbestos. When constantly exposed with insufficient protection, asbestos dust and fibres affect the mesothelial cells which make up the mesothelium. The mesothelium is the outer lining that protects some of the body’s most vital organs such as the heart and lungs. The mesothelial cells become abnormal after lengthy periods of constant exposure to asbestos causing an array of problems.
Due to the latency period and symptoms of this cancer, mesothelioma is very difficult to diagnose. Mesothelioma takes decades to mature and develop fully and this is why many elderly men who were exposed to asbestos thirty years before are just discovering they have the cancer. A lot of these men are currently lodging multi-million dollar lawsuits against the companies that exposed them to the dangers of asbestos without sufficient protection.
The organs that are affected most by mesothelioma are the lungs. The most common type of mesothelioma which is called pleural mesothelioma affects the lining of the lungs and can cause symptoms such as coughing, breathing and swallowing difficulties, shortness of breath and fever. Another area that can be affected by mesothelioma is the abdomen. This is less common and this is known as peritoneal mesothelioma. Symptoms of peritoneal mesothelioma include nausea and vomiting, weight loss, fever, bowel obstruction, loss of appetite and general pain in the stomach area. The last and least common type of mesothelioma is known as pericardial mesothelioma and it affects the heart and the tissue surrounding it. Symptoms of this form of the cancer include palpitations, breathing difficulties and persistent coughing. Generally, the symptoms of mesothelioma are typical of many other diseases and this makes it very difficult to diagnose.
There are treatments for mesothelioma although these are usually unsuccessful. If the cancer is treated aggressively in its early stages then there is a good chance of a patient surviving. However, due to the difficulty to diagnose mesothelioma, the cancer is not normally found until it is too late. Treatments that are used for mesothelioma include surgery, radiation therapy, palliative therapy and chemotherapy. Research for additional treatment of mesothelioma is being done at various cancer centers all over the United States as well as by pharmaceutical companies.