Mesothelioma is a rare form of cancer that affects the protective layer, or better described as the thin tissue lining that surrounds the bodies internal organs. This fluid, sac-filled tissue lining is known as the mesothelium to which mesothelioma got its name.
There are three types of mesothelioma and the most common out of the three is pleural mesothelioma, which affects the lining of the lungs and is accountable for about 75% of all mesothelioma cases. The second most common is peritoneal mesothelioma. This type of asbestos related cancer affects the lining of the abdomen and accounts for roughly 25% of all known mesothelioma cases. Lastly, we have pericardial mesothelioma and the internal organ that this affects is the heart and is to blame for less than 1% of all mesothelioma cases.
As you can clearly see, pleural mesothelioma is much more common as it accounts for 2/3’s of all mesothelioma cases. However, with the percentages shown earlier, mesothelioma has been known to start in the abdominal cavity, which then has spread to the heart. Generally, malignant mesothelium cells are capable of invading and destroying any nearby tissues regardless of where the disease originates. Mesothelioma cancer cells are also capable of metastasizing (spreading to other body parts) via lymphatic system within the body.
What causes mesothelioma?
The main cause of mesothelioma and from what we understand, the only cause is from a person either inhaling or ingesting asbestos fibers.
Asbestos is a mineral that is made up of thin, microscopic fibers. Asbestos fibers are resistant to fire, heat and chemical damage. Additionally, they don’t conduct electricity. For this reason, asbestos was mined and used widely before it was banned in the 1980s and 90s. Common industries that used asbestos containing materials include the automotive and construction industries.
Asbestos fibers are usually released into the air that surrounds us during the manufacture, construction and remodeling processes of various projects because this is when the asbestos fibers are not controlled; they are actually being disturbed during these projects. Once the asbestos fibers and dust go airborne, it is usually inhaled by anyone who is nearby, but also can be ingested. Upon intake, asbestos fibers are lodged into the mesothelium where they cause abnormal cell division and this abnormality will eventually lead to the development of mesothelioma.
This asbestos caused cancer is actually very hard to diagnose. The reason for this is because it takes anywhere between 20-50 years for mesothelioma to develop after the initial date of exposure. The person exposed won’t even see any symptoms until that time has passed either. What makes mesothelioma so difficult to diagnose is even when the person exposed to asbestos years ago starts to show warning signs of mesothelioma, the symptoms are often confused with the symptoms of other ailments and common colds.
Veterans are now the largest group affected by mesothelioma with almost 1/3 of all cases resulting from exposure during Military service. The U.S. Military used asbestos because it was Fire Retardant and has great insulating properties. It was widely used until it’s negative health effects we’re brought to the surface in the 1970’s when they began to phase out its use in the services, although it’s almost impossible to fully rid the product because of how much was used over the years
Common Mesothelioma Symptoms
Most mesothelioma symptoms resemble the symptoms of other ailments. As such, majority of the symptoms of mesothelioma during its early stages are mistaken for minor and common ailments. In fact, most people experience mesothelioma symptoms for a few months before actual mesothelioma diagnosis is made.
Watch this video to learn more about Mesothelioma Symptoms.
Mesothelioma symptoms may vary depending on the type of mesothelioma that an individual is suffering from.
Pleural Mesothelioma Symptoms
- Shortness of breath
- Pain in the lower back or side of the patient’s chest
- Excessive sweating
- Weight loss
- Trouble swallowing
- Swelling of the arms and face
Peritoneal mesothelioma symptoms
- Vomiting and nausea
- Weight loss
- Abdominal fluid accumulation or swelling
- Abdominal pain
Pericardial mesothelioma symptoms
- Chest pain
- Chronic cough
- Heart palpitations
- Shortness of breath
- Fatigue after light exertion
It is important to note that although these symptoms may be signs of mesothelioma, they can also be caused by other ailments. Nevertheless, it is crucial that you consult a doctor if you have any of these symptoms especially if you have an asbestos exposure history.
Factors That Influence Mesothelioma Symptoms
How and when mesothelioma symptoms develop depends on several factors.
- Duration for which a person was exposed to asbestos
- The amount of asbestos fibers that a person was exposed to
- Type of asbestos that a person was exposed to
- Stage of mesothelioma
These factors and cell type determine when, how and type of symptoms of mesothelioma that a person experiences. Seeking medical treatment immediately when the symptoms are detected can lead to a much more successful treatment for mesothelioma.
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Contributed by Ashley & Brian