Mesothelioma is a rare form of carcinoma of the mesothelium lining lungs or abdomen or heart; usually associated with exposure to asbestos dust. So there you are. Mesothelioma and asbestos have a common denominator. Asbestos is the root cause of a disease widely known as mesothelioma. In fact, those who breath asbestos dust have high probability of acquiring this disease. The most common form of mesothelioma is known as pleural mesothelioma, which affects the membrane that lines the chest cavity and the lungs.
There are about 2,000 cases of mesothelioma that are reported yearly in the United States alone. The sad part is that mesothelioma symptoms may not appear until about 30 years from first exposure to asbestos. The use of asbestos was as wide and common as late as thirty years ago, and those that have recently manifested their mesothelioma symptoms got exposed to asbestos from the 1950s to the 1970s.
Mesothelioma is usually found among people with long exposure to asbestos. Because asbestos had been widely used for industrial and construction applications until thirty years ago, those affected by the disease were those that have worked in the manufacturing and construction industries.
By the way, not all reported cases of mesothelioma had worked in either manufacturing or construction industry. Some mesothelioma cases were reported from those who at one time or another were exposed to clothing materials that had asbestos dust on them.
Unlike the AIDS virus, mesothelioma takes a very long time to manifest itself. Most people are diagnosed with the cancer 30 to 50 years from first exposure to asbestos. Evidence of mesothelioma cancer is difficult at the start, because it has the same signs as pneumonia.
Other symptoms of the disease include coughing, loss of weight, pain in the abdomen, anemia, fever, and shortness of breath. Mesothelioma treatment usually starts with a physical examination, including x-rays, CT scans, MRI, and biopsy.
If the cancer is detected, the extent of the cancer is determined. Like any form of cancer that is earlier diagnosed, mesothelioma cancer can be cured. Treatment includes surgery and chemotherapy, among others.
Symptoms of mesothelioma take a long time to develop, which is a major reason for the high fatality rate. Symptoms include shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, and pain in the chest or abdominal cavity. Chest pains indicate that the disease is aggravating the nerve cells in the tissues, and has reached a serious stage. Less severe chest discomfort and shortness of breath are generally due to the accumulation of fluid between the two layers of the pleura.
Mesothelioma of the abdomen can have symptoms of abdominal pain and swelling. Other symptoms include coughing, fatigue and unexplained weight loss.
As chest pain, shortness of breath or abdominal pain are symptomatic of several diseases, tests are required to identify the cause. These tests vary depending on the symptoms and may include an electrocardiogram (EKG), and a chest or abdominal X-ray. If abnormalities are seen, a CT scan or an MRI scan is taken. These tests help determine the size, location and extent of a possible tumor.
Fine-needle aspiration may also be given. In this procedure, a thin needle is used to remove a small sample of the fluid in the abdomen or lungs for examination. A biopsy is also taken through a thoracoscopy or video-assisted thoracoscopy (VAT), or through a led laparoscopy. Here, a tube-like instrument inserted through a small incision gives a view of the tumor and collect a tissue sample. A bronchoscopy or a mediastinoscopy may also be done. This enables the doctor to look for other masses of tumors in the lungs or to take tissue samples from lymph nodes.