Mesothelioma, typically caused by exposure to asbestos, is a rare cancer form that affects mesothelium membrane. Generally, mesothelioma begins in pleura (lining around lungs) or peritoneum (lining around abdomen).
Mesothelium is a membrane that covers the internal organs of the body and protects them. It is made up of two cell layers; one is immediately surrounding the organ, and the other is forming a sac around it. Organs can easily move and glide against adjacent organs due to a lubricating fluid released between these layers by mesothelium. Depending upon its body location mesothelium has different names, like pleura surround the lungs; peritoneum surrounds the abdomen; and pericardium surrounds the heart.
Mesothelioma tumor can be benign (non-cancerous) or malignant (cancerous). Malignant mesothelioma has been associated with inhalation of asbestos particles at workplace. Benign mesothelioma, also called fibroma, doesn’t seem to have any such connection with asbestos exposure.
Shipyard workers, asbestos mines and mills workers etc. have increased risk of mesothelioma. In a major percentage of mesothelioma patients, asbestos has been a major risk factor. Not just asbestos workers, even their families have been evidently affected by coming in contact with asbestos dust through their (the workers) clothes and hair. Chances of lung cancer are significantly increased by a combination of smoking and asbestos exposure.
The symptoms of mesothelioma may change depending on upon where the tumor is located in the body.
- Pleural mesothelioma symptoms include chest pain or shortness of breath.
- Peritoneal mesothelioma symptoms include abdominal pain, abdominal swelling or weight loss.
Anemia, fever abnormal blood-clotting are other symptoms. Diagnosis includes running tests like biopsy, CT scan, MRI, thoracoscopy, etc.
Depending upon the location of the tumor, stage of disease and patient’s health and age, the treatment may differ. Surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy or a combination of all is done.