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Mesothelioma Facts by Diane Quin

Mesothelioma is a malignant disease that grows on the sac lining of internal body cavities, known as the mesothelium. The mesothelium is composed of two membranes—one that protects most internal organs of the body, and the other which forms a sac around that layer.

There are different types of mesothelioma, which are named for the tissue where the tumors originated. Pleural mesothelioma appears in the chest—in the pleura (outer lining) that surrounds the lungs and lining of the chest cavity. Peritonal mesothelioma starts in the lining of most organs in the abdominal cavity.

Mesothelioma, which is cancer of the mesothelium, is a malignant disease causing cells of the mesothelium to become abnormal and uncontrollably divide. As with other types of cancers, these malignant cells may cause damage to nearby tissues and organs. These cells may also metastasize (spread) to other parts of the body.

These mesothelioma facts may help you to gain further understanding of the disease:

1. Working with asbestos is a risk factor for mesothelioma. Once widely used in industrial products including roof shingles, flooring products, textiles, and insulation, asbestos exposure is an unfortunate circumstance of many job conditions if it is inhaled.

2. According to the National Cancer Institute, mesothelioma is relatively rare, with 2,000 cases diagnosed in the United States.

3. Symptoms include shortness of breath, a dry cough, fever, abdominal swelling, and pain under the rib cage. These may be treated with surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy.

   
What is mesothelioma?

About mesothelioma

The mesothelium is a membrane that covers and protects most of the internal organs of the body. It is composed of two layers of cells: One layer immediately surrounds the organ; the other forms a sac around it. Cancer of the mesothelium--mesothelioma--is a disease in which cells of the mesothelium become abnormal and divide without control or order. These cancer cells can invade and damage nearby tissues and organs. Cancer cells can also spread from their original site to other parts of the body.

   
How do physicians describe the nature of mesothelioma growth?

Development of mesothelioma

Physicians use specific terminology to describe the stages of cancers such as Mesothelioma. Mesothelioma is described as "localized" if the cancer is found only on the membrane surface where it originated. It is classified as "advanced" if it has spread beyond the original membrane surface to other parts of the body, such as the lymph nodes, lungs, chest wall, or abdominal organs.

   
How long does it take for mesothelioma to manifest itself in a patient?

Development of mesothelioma

Because mesothelioma has such a long development time or "latency period"--30 to 50 years--people who were exposed in the 1940's, 50's, 60's and 70's are only now being diagnosed with mesothelioma. Exposure as little as one or two months may result in mesothelioma decades later.

   
Is there a link between asbestos and mesothelioma?

Mesothelioma and exposure to asbestos

Mesothelioma is often associated with asbestos. Working with asbestos is the major risk factor for mesothelioma. A history of asbestos exposure at work is reported in about 70 percent to 80 percent of all cases. However, mesothelioma has been reported in some individuals without any known exposure to asbestos. While smoking does not appear to increase risk of mesothelioma, the combination of smoking and asbestos exposure is a major risk factor for developing lung cancer.

   
Is mesothelioma a common form of cancer?

Incidence of mesothelioma

How common is mesothelioma? Although reported incidence rates have increased in the past 20 years, mesothelioma is still a relatively rare cancer. About 2,000 new cases of mesothelioma are diagnosed in the United States each year. Mesothelioma occurs more often in men than in women and risk increases with age, but this disease can appear in either men or women at any age.

   
Can family members also be at risk for exposure to asbestos?

Risks of asbestos exposure

There is some evidence that family members and others living with asbestos workers have an increased risk of developing mesothelioma, and possibly other asbestos-related diseases. This risk may be the result of exposure to asbestos dust brought home on the clothing and hair of asbestos workers. Ever since the link bewteen asbestos and mesothelioma became known, asbestos workers are usually required to shower and change their clothing before leaving the workplace in order to reduce the chance of exposing family members to asbestos fibers.

   

Malignant Mesothelioma

Malignant mesothelioma is a very rare form of cancer that forms from the protective lining of the body’s internal organs. The primary cause is exposure to asbestos. As the mesothelium is attacked, doctors divide malignant mesothelioma into four types depending on its location.
Pleural mesothelioma is the first type as this is where tumors form in the pleura or abdomen. The pleuron is the membrane that lines the lungs and chest cavity. It is important to point out that pleural mesothelioma is different than lung cancer because it solely effects the pleura while lung cancer originates in the lungs.
The second type is peritoneal mesothelioma. This is where the cancer attacks the lining of the abdomen. In the abdomen, there is a fluid that allows organs to work properly. Mesothelioma simply destroys this fluid. The third type is pericardial mesothelioma, this is where the protective membranes surrounding the heart are attacked. Luckily, this is the second rarest form of mesothelioma.
The last malignant mesothelioma type is testicular mesothelioma. This is the rarest form of the cancer and develops in the areas that surround the testicles.

   

Benign Mesothelioma Information

Mesothelioma is also known as fibrous or multicystic mesothelioma and is categorized as a non-cancerous tumor that inside the pleura, the lining around and in the lungs. Benign mesothelioma is not related to asbestos cancer. The pleura are composed of cells known as mesothelial cells, which prevent the lungs and other organs from rubbing together by secreting a liquid substance. With benign mesothelioma, there is no pleura effusion production. It develops in the lungs more frequently than in the stomach, reproductive tissues, and heart and occurs more in men than it occurs in women it. The most important difference between the cancerous form of mesothelioma and the benign form is that with the benign form, tumors do not spread to the other tissues in the body.
Both the benign and malignant tumors are a result of asbestos exposure. This happens when airborne asbestos fibers travel and reach the linings of the lungs and while there cause cell damage in the lining resulting in abnormal cell growth.
Who is at Risk?
• Workers in occupations where asbestos is used or produced
• Exposure to fertilizers and pesticides that contain vermiculite
• drinking of contaminated water
• Living with a person who brings asbestos home on their clothing

At least 50% of those affected with benign mesothelioma do not even know they have it and is usually made aware of the disease through things such as X-rays. Those who do have symptoms can experience;
• Chronic coughing
• Chest pain
• Fever
• The most common symptom, clubbed fingers.
In Papillary mesothelioma other areas not affected by most forms of mesothelioma are sometimes affected here. This includes areas such as the membrane covering the sides and front of the epidedymis and testicles in men and the ovaries in women.

   

Mesothelioma Cancers

Mesothelioma cancers occur when the lining of the lungs, heart or abdomen are affected by asbestos. This cancer can only be malignant or benign. However, if a benign form of mesothelioma occurs, one can still become very sick. If benign it can be localized but if malignant, it will diffusely spread.
It is important to point out that malignant mesothelioma is a rare form of cancer. The victims are those who are exposed on a consistent basis to vast amounts of asbestos. It develops when the protective lining that covers the body’s internal organs are exposed by asbestos. It typically results in a tumor in either the chest or abdomen and is typically caused by the ingestion of asbestos particles.
Even though meothelioma is rare it is almost always fatal. This is because of the extreme negative impact it has on the lining around the lungs and inside of the ribs in the section referred to as the pleura. It also affects the peritoneum of the body which is around the abdominal organs. Asbestos should be avoided on all levels.

   

Mesothelioma Doctors

For the past couple decades, doctors were oblivious to what mesothelioma was. However, numerous mesothelioma doctors exist today who can immediately recognize the disease and treat it adequately.
In the last thirty years, mesothelioma cases increased which caused some doctors to learn about it more. However, a mesothelioma doctor will more than likely not be the first doctor a patient sees. A patient’s family doctor will be the first to identify the cancer through various tests. Just because a doctor can identify the disease doesn’t mean they know how to treat it properly, this is where a specialist on the particular area comes into play.
Due to the severity of the disease, sufferers will find the best doctors in their particular state as well as in other locations to be treated. The best mesothelioma doctors reside in major US cities by world renowned research facilities. Reassuringly, many of the doctors are involved in the research for the disease and work hard to find a cure for it.
If from a small town, it is mandatory to travel to the closest city with a certified mesothlelioma doctor for treatment. Life expectancy will be longer and the suffering process will not be as severe.

   

Mesothelioma News

Mesothelioma cancer has likely existed for as long as it's main proprietor, Asbestos, has been in business. At a time when our industrial capabilities had outstripped the insight of our physicians the use of asbestos had become common practice in the construction industry. Without the tools we now possess doubtless thousands of men and women where exposed to asbestos only to develop mesothelioma and have it passed over as a lesser contagion. Luckily for us, we live in an age of rapid growth in regards to our medical abilities.

Mesothelioma news has come under international scrutiny as working and retired men and women are being diagnosed with mesothelioma. And it's cause? Their exposure to asbestos. Scientists have made breakthroughs in the treatment of mesothelioma that, having properly tested these procedures, will give much needed relief to a long suffering, long ignored victims of this terrible disease. One such breakthrough involves injecting a commercial skin cancer lotion in conjunction with anti-CD 40 into mesothelioma tumors. They have tested this on mice and found that fifty percent of them had been completely cured!

Take these mesothelioma tips to heart if you or someone you know is suffering.
Medicine is moving forward at an exponential rate and mesothelioma cancer is one of the tough contenders it plans to knock out.

   

Mesothelioma Stages Tip

There are four mesothelioma stages which strive to find out how far the cancer has spread. With the use of x-rays and MRI scans, this is an accurate way to see what stage the cancer is on.
Stage one is where mesothelioma is on one side of the chest and isn’t growing into the chest wall. It will either be on the right or left side of the chest and spread to a few small spots in the outer lining of the lung. Stage two is when mesothelioma makes its way into the chest wall and has grown into the pleura on the other side of the chest.
For stage three, mesothelioma has grown through the diaphragm into the lining of the abdominal cavity. This is where it spreads to lymph nodes past the chest. Stage four is the worst stage for mesothelioma as it can spread into numerous locations. It can spread into the chest wall, through the diaphragm, into any organ in the mediastinum, the spine, to the other side of the chest from where it was, the heart, nerves leading to the arm, lymph nodes and organs through the bloodstream.

   

Mesothelioma Lung Cancer Tip

An extremely rare form of lung cancer that is evident in the mesothelium is mesothelioma lung cancer. Mesothelioma lung cancer is caused by asbestos exposure. If one has mesothelioma then it is accurate to say they’ve had exposure to asbestos in their life.
Although smoking does not cause mesothelioma, an individual who smokes and who was exposed to asbestos is almost guaranteed to get lung cancer. However, asbestos is the sole reason one develops mesothelioma lung cancer. The way asbestos enters an individual’s body is through their lungs.
Asbestos can enter the body through the lungs because it floats in the air as if it were a dust particle and can be inhaled easily. This will have a negative impact on malignant cells which are the heart of lung cancer. Mesothelioma lung cancer is increasing each year and in past decades, physicians misdiagnosed it as lung cancer. Even though ninety percent of lung cancer cases are because of smoking, causes of mesothelioma are also beginning to play a significant role. Asbestos, the cause of mesothelioma, increases the risk of lung cancer by nine times.

   

Mesothelioma Cancer Tip

Mesothelioma cancer occurs when the lining of the lungs, heart or abdomen are affected by asbestos. This cancer can only be malignant or benign. However, if a benign form of mesothelioma occurs, one can still become very sick. If benign it can be localized but if malignant, it will diffusely spread.
It is important to point out that malignant mesothelioma is a rare form of cancer. The victims are those who are exposed on a consistent basis to vast amounts of asbestos. It develops when the protective lining that covers the body’s internal organs are exposed by asbestos. It typically results in a tumor in either the chest or abdomen and is typically caused by the ingestion of asbestos particles.
Even though meothelioma is rare it is almost always fatal. This is because of the extreme negative impact it has on the lining around the lungs and inside of the ribs in the section referred to as the pleura. It also affects the peritoneum of the body which is around the abdominal organs. Asbestos should be avoided on all levels.

   
Is lung cancer different from mesothelioma?

Mesothelioma and exposure to asbestos

It's important to understand the distinction between lung cancer caused by smoking and mesothelioma. Mesothelioma affects the lungs but is not considered lung cancer. Since smokers are at risk for lung cancer it can lead to contracting other asbestos related diseases. Lung cancer is more common, appearing in the lung's inner tissues. Mesothelioma, by contrast, develops in the tissue covering the lung.

   
Does smoking affect my risk of mesothelioma?

Treatment options

Studies have been conducted to find out if smoking has an effect on the risk of mesothelioma. These studies have shown that the combination of smoking and asbestos exposure is particularly hazardous. Smokers who are also exposed to asbestos have a greatly increased risk of lung cancer. However, smoking combined with asbestos exposure does not appear to increase the risk of mesothelioma.

   
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Guru Spotlight
Jennifer Mathes, Ph.D.