What is malignant mesothelioma?
Malignant mesothelioma, a rare form of cancer, is a disease in which cancer (malignant) cells are found in the sac lining the chest (the pleura) or abdomen (the peritoneum). Most people with malignant mesothelioma have worked on jobs where they breathed asbestos. Most cases of malignant mesothelioma are caused by exposure to asbestos, a naturally occurring
mineral that was used in a variety of industries. A small percentage of cases have been linked to exposure to a mineral silicate called zeolite or to a type of radiation contrast dye (Thorotrast) that was used before 1960 to help blood vessels show up on X-rays. In a few cases, the cause is unknown.
Malignant mesothelioma is a diffuse tumor that affects men more frequently than women. Sustained exposure to asbestos is the predominant risk factor. The latent period between asbestos exposure and onset of symptoms can be 20 to 50 years or even longer. Although rare, Malignant Mesothelioma represents a serious health threat to those diagnosed. Because it often becomes advanced before symptoms appear the outlook is not as good as it is for cancers that doctors find earlier. About half of the patients whose doctors find and treated the cancer early will survive two years or more. The average survival time for all stages of Malignant Mesothelioma is about one year. The median age of diagnosis is 60. The tumor can spread rapidly to involve the pericardium (sac around the heart), mediastinum, and opposite pleura. Progressive pain and shortness of breath can occur. The tumor is usually associated with a pleural effusion.
The main risk factor for mesothelioma is contact with asbestos. A person breathes in asbestos fibers, which then travel to the ends of the small air passages, and reach the lining of the lungs. There they can damage the mesothelial cells or the lining of the lung cells. If swallowed, these fibers can also reach the lining of the abdominal cavity where they play a part in causing a cancer called peritoneal mesothelioma. Eliminating exposure to asbestos is the best way to prevent mesothelioma. People who have mined, milled, or worked with asbestos are at high risk for this disease. Laborers who work with plumbing, boilers, or other heating equipment that uses asbestos are also at risk. Others who do not work directly with asbestos but are in the area where the substance is being used are also at risk. This may include carpenters, electricians, or welders. People who live with asbestos workers, such as spouses and children, also have a higher risk of mesothelioma. It takes 30 to 40 years from the time of asbestos exposure for mesothelioma to develop. This cancer is diagnosed in roughly 2,000 people in the U.S. each year. The rate is expected to go down, since the asbestos industry has been regulated for many years. Since the primary means of exposure has been due to working with asbestos, the rate of this cancer is three to five times higher in men than in women. The disease is extremely rare in children.
Diagnosis of mesothelioma begins with a medical history and physical exam. The healthcare provider may order a chest X-ray and a chest CT scan or chest MRI. The diagnosis is confirmed with a biopsy. A tissue sample can be obtained through a needle, called a needle biopsy. Also, an incision can be made in the chest, which is called a thoractomy, and the tumor can be removed. The area in question can also be viewed with a scope, known as a thoracoscope or peritoneoscope.
The preferred treatment for mesothelioma is surgical resection. A tumor of any size can be resected if it is confined to one hemithorax and involves only superficial invasion. The doctor may remove part of the lining of the chest or abdomen and some of the tissue around it. Depending on how far the cancer has spread, a lung also may be removed in an operation called a pneumonectomy. Sometimes part of the diaphragm, the muscle below the lungs that helps with breathing, is also removed.
Radiation therapy uses high-energy x-rays to kill cancer cells and shrink tumors. Radiation may come from a machine outside the body (external radiation therapy) or from putting materials that produce radiation (radioisotopes) through thin plastic tubes in the area where the cancer cells are found (internal radiation therapy).
If fluid has collected in the chest or abdomen, the doctor may drain the fluid out of the body by putting a needle into the chest or abdomen and using gentle suction to remove the fluid. If fluid is removed from the chest, this is called thoracentesis. If fluid is removed from the abdomen, this is called paracentesis. The doctor may also put drugs through a tube into the chest to prevent more fluid from accumulating.
Chemotherapy uses drugs to kill cancer cells. Chemotherapy may be taken by pill, or it may be put into the body by a needle in the vein or muscle. Chemotherapy is called a systemic treatment because the drug enters the bloodstream, travels through the body, and can kill cancer cells throughout the body. In mesothelioma, chemotherapy may be put directly into the chest (intrapleural chemotherapy).
More information on mesothelioma cancer
What is mesothelioma cancer? - Mesothelioma (cancer of the mesothelium) is a disease in which cells of the mesothelium become abnormal and divide without control or order.
What types of mesothelioma are there? - Mesotheliomas consist of two general types-benign and malignant. Malignant mesothelioma is a cancerous tumor of the pleura.
What is pleural mesothelioma? - Pleural mesothelioma is a cancer of the cells that make up the pleura or lining around the outside of the lungs and inside of the ribs.
What is peritoneal mesothelioma? - Peritoneal mesothelioma is a cancer affecting the abdominal lining, or peritoneum. Peritoneal mesothelioma is a tumor of this membrane.
What is malignant mesothelioma? - Malignant mesothelioma is a cancer in which cancer (malignant) cells are found in the sac lining the chest (the pleura) or abdomen (the peritoneum).
What causes mesothelioma? - Asbestos exposure is the main cause of mesothelioma. The chances of suffering from mesothelioma rise with the intensity and duration of exposure to asbestos.
What're the risk factors for mesothelioma? - The main risk factors for malignant mesothelioma is exposure to asbestos. Other risk factors include radiation, zeolite, tobacco, and SV40 Virus.
Who's at increased risk for developing mesothelioma? - Family members and others living with asbestos workers have an increased risk of developing mesothelioma.
Asbestos and mesothelioma - Asbestosis, mesothelioma, and lung cancer are the three most frequent causes of death and disease among people with heavy asbestos exposure.
Where is asbestos found? - Asbestos has been widely used in many industrial products. Exposure to asbestos can occur in home improvement and construction projects.
When is asbestos dangerous? - Asbestos is hazardous when it is friable. The most common way for asbestos fibers to enter the body is through breathing.
How to reduce asbestos exposure? - Reducing exposure to asbestos by repairing damaged material will involve covering the material or sealing asbestos material.
What's the mesothelioma survival rate? - Mesothelioma is a serious disease. The average age at diagnosis is 50 to 70 years old. The average survival time is about one year.
What're the symptoms of mesothelioma? - Symptoms of mesothelioma include pain in the lower back or at the side of the chest, cough, fever, sweating, fatigue, and weight loss.
How is mesothelioma diagnosed? - Diagnosis of mesothelioma begins with a review of the patient's medical history, including any history of asbestos exposure.
How is mesothelioma staged? - Staging of mesothelioma is based on imaging studies such as x-rays, CT scans, and MRI scans. Malignant mesothelioma moves through four stages.
What's the treatment for mesothelioma? - Treatment for mesothelioma cancer include surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy. Surgery is a common treatment for mesothelioma.
Treatment of malignant mesothelioma by stage - Most patients with stage I mesothelioma have their cancer surgically removed by pleurectomy/decortication or extrapleural pneumonectomy.
Surgery for mesothelioma - Surgery for malignant mesothelioma can be aimed at long-term control of the cancer (aggressive surgery) or relief of symptoms (palliative procedures).
Chemotherapy for mesothelioma - Chemotherapy uses drugs to kill cancer cells. In mesothelioma, chemotherapy may be put directly into the chest.
Radiation therapy for mesothelioma - Radiation is useful because mesothelioma is made up of rapid growing cells and radiation is most effective on cells that divide rapidly.
How to prevent malignant mesothelioma? - The risk of malignant mesothelioma can be reduced by avoiding getting exposed to asbestos.
What's the prognosis of malignant mesothelioma? - The survival time after diagnosis of malignant mesothelioma is about one year. Prognosis for malignant mesothelioma depends on how early it is diagnosed.
What about the mesothelioma lawsuits? - Mesothelioma lawsuits are classified into two groups: personal injury, and wrongful death. Mesothelioma lawsuits usually seek compensation for medical costs.
Who is mesothelioma attorney (lawyer)? - The benefits of hiring a mesothelioma attorney are numerous. A mesothelioma lawyer is able to provide both advice and assistance.