Mesothelioma Health Facts
Mesothelium is the protective covering on and around most of the human body organs. A rare type of cancer of the mesothelium is called mesothelioma. Asbestos overexposure is the major cause of this disease and most commonly it affects the pleura which lines the lungs and chest cavity and can also be found in the peritoneum and the pericardium. Peritoneum is what lines the abdominal cavity and pericardium is the sac surrounding the heart. There is no link between mesothelioma and smoking despite its common assumption of the same origin.
It may take as many as 20 to 50 years after exposure for the symptoms to become apparent. Mesothelioma exists in different forms with different unpleasant symptoms. Common symptoms of pleural mesothelioma are coughing, breath shortness and also chest pain. These are caused from the build-up of fluid in the pleural area.
Ascites or fluid build-up in the abdomen area, abdominal pain and also weight loss are a symptom from peritoneal mesothelioma. Other symptoms include bowel obstruction, fever, anemia, or abnormal blood clotting. Swallowing difficulty and neck swelling may occur if the cancer metastasizes past the mesothelium.
Collapsed lungs, blood clotting in the veins, blood clotting in the heart’s arteries, severe bleeding in many organs, jaundice, a low blood sugar level, and severe ascites are some symptoms of mesothelioma. Many tumor masses are present in some severe cases.
Mesothelioma is a cancer which is difficult disease to diagnose since the symptoms are also shared by various other disorders. Suspicion of mesothelioma is raised when the above symptoms are present along with a patient history of asbestos exposure. To isolate other possible problems, a physical examination, chest x-rays and lung-function tests are performed. Pleural thickening is normally seen after exposure to asbestos thus, x-rays are being used to determine the issue. If pleural thickening is detected, a CAT scan or MRI is performed. Later, tests are performed to detect abnormal cells inside the fluid and to confirm the results a biopsy is done. If the cancer is suspected to be inside the abdomen, a laparoscopy can be performed.
After the cancer has been diagnosed, the cancer stage will be assessed by doctors. If the cancer is limited to the membrane surface, the stage will be classified as ‘localized’. However, it will be classified as ‘advanced’ if the cancer has spread farther than the membrane surface.
There are many ways in which this disease can be treated. One of it is surgery, which have an average result of 5 survival rate of less than 10% survivors. Chemotherapy, radiotherapy, immunotherapy and also heated intraoperative intraperitoneal chemotherapy are also one of the many options. Radiation is used as the tumors are highly resistant to it while immunotherapy has produced varying results some were successful and some were not. In the last option, the heated chemotherapy is a procedure where the surgeon removes as many tumors as possible before immediately administering chemotherapy treatment and allowing 60 to 120 minutes for the effect before it is drained.