Mesothelioma is a type of cancer found in the mesothelium, a covering that protects most of the body’s internal organs. The mesothelium has two layers: one acts as skin to a certain organ and the other is like a sac that surrounds it. Mesothelioma is a disease where malignant cells develop in the mesothelium.
Pleural and peritoneal mesothelioma are the two most common forms of this rare cancer. It is often found in the outer lining of the lungs, the inside lining of the abdominal cavity and the sac surrounding the heart.
Who is at Risk?
Exposure to asbestos is a significant risk factor. People who have worked in jobs where they have been exposed asbestos and family members of these workers who have had second hand exposure are both at risk for the development of mesothelioma.
About 2000 new cases of mesothelioma are diagnosed each year in the US. The incidence of this cancer has increased over the last 20 years. Both men and women can develop the disease although men tend to outnumber women. A history of prolonged exposure to asbestos shows up in about 70 to 80 percent of the cases of mesothelioma.
What is Asbestos?
Asbestos is a natural mineral composed of durable and fire-resistant fibers used commercially in industries including: shipbuilding, textiles, insulation, heating and construction, roofing and flooring, automotive repair, and many more. Asbestos was used as ceiling tiles in old school buildings. Since the late 1800s, asbestos was mined continuously and widely used on Navy ships. It was only in 1970s that the government started regulating use of asbestos.
What are the Symptoms and Treatment Options?
Symptoms that often resemble those of more common ailments include: chest pain, shortness of breath, weight loss, abdominal pain and swelling, fever, and swelling of the neck or face. Medical tests that can help diagnosis are: chest x-rays, CT scan, biopsy, and MRI.
Common treatment options include: chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery.