Mesothelioma is a rare form of malignant cancer. Mesothelioma most often develops in the lining of the chest or the lining of the abdominal cavity. Mesothelioma that develops in the lining of the chest is known as pleural mesothelioma. Mesothelioma that develops in the abdominal cavity is known as peritoneal mesothelioma.
Asbestos exposure is most often the cause of mesothelioma development. Radiation, tobacco, and zeolite exposure may also cause mesothelioma development. People who have worked in jobs in which they were exposed to asbestos are at an increased risk for developing mesothelioma. Some people may have been unknowingly exposed to asbestos pollution. Building codes and health standards have changed greatly within the last few decades. There is now a conscious effort to prevent asbestos exposure in the public and private sector.
An estimated 2,000 to 3,000 new cases of mesothelioma are diagnosed yearly in the United States. Mesothelioma diagnosis is on the rise. This may be due to increased awareness if the condition. The average age that a diagnosis of mesothelioma is made is 60. Mesothelioma affects men 3 to 5 times more often than women. Mesothelioma is less common in African Americans than in white Americans. The average survival time following mesothelioma diagnosis is one year. This is because the mesothelioma is often in advanced state when the diagnosis is made. When mesothelioma is found early, aggressive treatment can prolong the life expectancy as much as 3 to 5 years.
Mesothelioma related to asbestos exposure can develop as much as 50to 70 years after initial contact. Asbestos exposure lasting for only a few weeks or months are also linked to mesothelioma development. Mesothelioma has a long latency period. Many will not experience noticeable symptoms during the initial stages of mesothelioma.
As pleural mesothelioma progresses, many people may present with pain in the lower back or at the side of the chest. Shortness of breath, difficulty swallowing, cough, and fever are other symptoms associated with pleural mesothelioma. Other symptoms of pleural mesothelioma include hoarseness, coughing up blood, swelling of the face and arms, muscle weakness, and sensory loss. The symptoms may vary in intensity and duration in each individual sufferer.
As peritoneal mesothelioma develops, weight loss, abdominal pain, and vomiting may be present. Other symptoms of peritoneal mesothelioma include hernia, fluid in the abdominal cavity or an abdominal mass.
Diagnosis of mesothelioma is based on several physical examinations and diagnostic procedures. A complete medical history and physical examination will be taken to determine risk factors and possible triggers of mesothelioma. Chest x-rays and CT scans will be used to assess pleural and peritoneal cavities. Tissue samples may also be taken to further exam and diagnose mesothelioma.
Mesothelioma treatment is based on the type and stage of the mesothelioma. Cancer medication, immune therapy, and photodynamic therapies may be used in the treatment of mesothelioma.