What is Malignant Mesothelioma and Asbestosis?
A malignant mesothelioma is a rare form of cancer that starts in the mesothelium, the thin protective lining that covers the lungs, the heart, the abdomen and the sac that surrounds the testis.
What is Mesothelioma and Asbestosis?
Mesothelioma is a rare and serious cancer caused by exposure to asbestos. It takes 20 to 50 years to develop and occurs in the lining of the lungs, chest, abdomen and heart.
Mesothelioma is a cancer of the mesothelium caused by asbestos exposure. The mesothelium is a thin membrane that protects and lubricates different body cavities, such as the chest and abdominal cavities.
What are the types of Mesothelioma and Asbestosis?
There are four types of Mesothelioma: Peritoneal Mesothelioma (abdomen), pericardial Mesothelioma (heart), testicular Mesothelioma (testis) and pleural Mesothelioma (lungs). Pleural Mesothelioma is the most common type and represents about three-quarters of all mesothelioma incidence. Peritoneal Mesothelioma is second-most prevalent while the pericardial and testicular mesotheliomas are the rarest forms and account for less than 2% of the mesothelioma cases.
Pleural Mesothelioma (Lungs)
Cancer of the mesothelium in the lungs is known as pleural Mesothelioma. It accounts for 3 out of 4 mesothelioma diagnoses because most asbestos fibres are inhaled, lodging into the lining of the lungs.
Peritoneal Mesothelioma (Abdomen)
Cancer of the mesothelium surrounding the abdomen is known as peritoneal Mesothelioma. It is caused by ingesting asbestos fibres and accounts for about 20 per cent of all diagnoses.
Pericardial Mesothelioma (Heart)
Cancer of the mesothelium surrounding the heart is known as pericardial Mesothelioma. This is the rarest form of Mesothelioma and is rarely diagnosed while the patient is still alive.
Testicular Mesothelioma (Testis)
Testicular Mesothelioma is a cancer of the membrane lining that covers the testicles. This rare disease, also known as Mesothelioma of the tunica vaginalis testis, accounts for less than 1 percent of all mesothelioma cases. Testicular Mesothelioma occurs when mutated cells in the lining surrounding the testicle begin replicating uncontrollably.
What causes Mesothelioma and Asbestosis?
The primary cause of Mesothelioma is prolonged exposure to asbestos. Inhalation and ingestion of asbestos fibers can cause pleural and peritoneal mesotheliomas, respectively. However, there is not any conclusive evidence linking asbestos exposure to pericardial and testicular mesotheliomas. In rare cases of individuals without any known exposure to asbestos and have developed Mesothelioma, this disease can be caused by irradiation of the chest or abdomen and inhalation of other fibrous silicates, such as erionite or talc.
What are the Common Symptoms of Mesothelioma and Asbestosis?
Mesothelioma is difficult to distinguish from other types of lung diseases. Mesothelioma takes a long time to develop, and the signs and symptoms may appear when the disease has progressed into a later stage, usually about 20 to 50 years after exposure to asbestos. Furthermore, the early signs and symptoms of Mesothelioma can be so mild that they are mistaken for common illnesses. By the time Mesothelioma is diagnosed, cancer has already spread, making it difficult to treat.
The common warning signs and symptoms of Mesothelioma include:
- Dry cough
- Trouble breathing
- Pleural or peritoneal effusion (accumulation of fluid)
- Trouble swallowing
- Coughing up blood
- Pain in the chest or abdomen
- Bowel obstruction
- Nausea and vomiting
- Weight loss
People who have pleural Mesothelioma often complain of chest pain and shortness of breath. Additional symptoms of pleural Mesothelioma include difficulty swallowing, a persistent cough, fever, weight loss, fatigue, muscle weakness, loss of sensory capability, hemoptysis or coughing up blood, facial and arm swelling, and hoarseness.
How are Mesothelioma and Asbestosis Diagnosed?
People with Mesothelioma are often misdiagnosed with less-serious illnesses like pneumonia, bronchial infection and COPD or a different type of cancer. The misdiagnosis is frequently made because of the rarity of Mesothelioma, and it does not come to the minds of many physicians who are not trained to deal with this disease.
The steps the doctors will take in evaluating an asbestos-related disease is first to obtain a full medical history, followed by some standard physical examinations. They would ask where the asbestos exposure occurred and for how long and also the amount of asbestos one was exposed to. Imaging scans are then recommended by doctors to identify any abnormal growths. If a suspicious mass that looks like mesothelioma appears on those tests, the doctors will request a biopsy to confirm the diagnosis.
Over the last few years, blood tests have been studied for its role in diagnosing Mesothelioma. Blood tests are being used in analyzing proteins and other substances (biomarkers) that are present in mesothelioma patients.
What is the Prognosis with Mesothelioma and Asbestosis?
Every case is different, and cancer can be unpredictable. The prognosis mostly depends on the stage and the type of cancer that one has. Malignant Mesothelioma is extremely aggressive and is usually detected in the advanced stage of the disease. Therefore, the prognosis for patients with Mesothelioma is often not favourable.
Although the prognosis varies greatly for each patient, younger patients appear to have the most positive prognosis. The American Cancer Society (ACS) noted that out of the 2,959 patients they studied, nearly 37 per cent of mesothelioma patients younger than 45 years old survived for more than five years after diagnosis. The mesothelioma survival rate following diagnosis is usually just a year or two.
What are the treatment options for Mesothelioma and Asbestosis patients?
The treatment of malignant Mesothelioma continues to be a challenge for the medical community. The rareness of the cancer makes it difficult to conduct the studies needed to formulate the ideal therapy for each stage of the disease. As there is no reliable cure for Mesothelioma, the treatment primarily aims to reduce pain and suffering and prolong the patients’ life as long as possible while providing them with the highest quality of life possible.
The first most important step in planning for treatment is choosing the right mesothelioma doctor. There are several mesothelioma doctors practising across the world, and if you were diagnosed with Mesothelioma by your primary physician, he will likely refer you to an oncologist that specializes in mesothelioma care.
There are four types of mesothelioma treatments: Surgery, chemotherapy, radiation and multimodal therapy. The type of therapy you will receive will depend on the cancer stage, primary site affected and your overall health. A combination of radiation, surgery and chemotherapy will likely be offered to you if the cancer has not yet metastasized. This combination is called a multimodal approach.
If the Mesothelioma already has spread significantly, your options will be more palliative in nature. In a palliative setting, your symptoms will be treated to reduce pain and improve your quality of life for as long as possible. You are still likely to be offered radiation and chemotherapy, but probably not major surgery options. Medication for pain, difficulty breathing and other symptoms is a mainstay, as well as emotional and spiritual support for you and your family. Alternative therapies such as massage, acupuncture and meditation may also be helpful.
What are the Mesothelioma and Asbestosis Statistics?
Each year, there are 2,000 to 3,000 new cases of Mesothelioma in the United States. Men are 4.6 times more likely to be diagnosed with Mesothelioma. For people older than 60 years of age, the risk of developing the disease is ten times higher than that of people younger than 40.
What is Asbestosis?
Asbestos refers to the six naturally occurring fibrous minerals—chrysotile, crocidolite, amosite, anthophyllite, tremolite and actinolite. Asbestos was widely used in building construction and many other industries because of its extremely durable and fire-resistant properties. It was first used as an insulating material in 1866 and became commercially available in the early 1870s. The use of asbestos was banned in the 1970s when it was discovered that asbestos fibres, when released into the air and inhaled, could cause serious diseases. These diseases include, but not limited to, Mesothelioma, asbestosis and pleural plaques. Malignant Mesothelioma is the most serious of all asbestos-related diseases. In the past, asbestos exposures occurred largely to miners and mill workers, as well as to those who lived in an asbestos-contaminated environment where mining or road construction was taking place. Family members were indirectly exposed to asbestos by workers going home covered in asbestos dust. Today, most asbestos exposures are associated with the repair, restoration or removal of buildings built during the time the asbestos was a very prevalent building material, as well as with natural disasters causing erosion of asbestos-bearing rocks.
How Does Asbestos Cause Cancer?
Asbestos fibres are insoluble, jagged and glasslike in appearance. Once inhaled, they attach to the lung tissues and irritate the tissues causing lesions. An immune system response to the lesions is triggered, and the repeated cell damage followed by DNA repair or mutations can result in cell death, scar formation and transformation to malignancy. Keep in mind that asbestos has to be released into the air and inhaled or ingested to cause damage to individuals. Asbestos is not a problem if it remains solid and not disturbed.
Being diagnosed with Mesothelioma is a life-changing experience that throws the victims into a whirlwind of emotions and daunting questions. How will the treatments get paid? Who is the best doctor to go to? How do I come to terms with this?
Mesothelioma.net is a resource support centre offering a variety of options to help victims with their Mesothelioma. Whether it is finding a place to live during treatments, taking up therapeutic counselling, or just needing questions answered about your diagnosis, Mesothelioma.net is there to make sure you’re taken care of.
Mesothelioma.net has gone above and beyond to make sure its patients are heard and supported during these difficult times. They make sure the victims are well provided with financial and emotional support during their treatments.
Mesothelioma is a terrifying prospect to accept. So Mesothelioma.net offers a service to help people with this debilitating condition.
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For more information about Mesothelioma and Asbestosis, please refer to the following web pages and articles:
Asbestos Exposure Risks by State
Survival Rates for Mesothelioma