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Mesothelioma

Mesothelioma is a cancer caused by asbestos. The linings of the lungs or the belly are where it most frequently develops. After diagnosis, the life expectancy ranges from 18 to 31 months on average, but the prognosis may get better with treatment. Symptoms can include chest pain, shortness of breath and general fatigue.

What Are the Symptoms?

After the initial asbestos exposure, mesothelioma symptoms might take 10 to 50 years to appear. Early identification can be made more difficult by symptoms that are frequently confused with less severe conditions. Patients should seek medical assistance as soon as symptoms appear because early discovery may improve the prognosis for mesothelioma.

Man clutching chest

Common Symptoms

  • Chest pain or abdominal pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Fluid buildup
  • Fatigue
  • Fever and night sweats
  • Weight loss

Causes

The sole proven cause of mesothelioma is exposure to asbestos. Asbestos fibers may become lodged in the lining of the heart, abdomen, or lungs after being inhaled or consumed. The fibers eventually result in inflammation and scarring. This irritation can eventually lead to the development of mesothelioma tumors.

Mesothelioma Types and Locations

read more on the causes here

Who Is at Risk of Developing Mesothelioma?

Mesothelioma can develop from any level of asbestos exposure. However, higher exposure rates may occur in some professions. The risk to the loved ones of these workers is increased due to secondhand exposure.

At-Risk Occupations

Workers may be exposed to asbestos on the job. Mechanics, machinists, and workers in shipyards are among the high-risk professions.

Secondhand Exposure

Asbestos may be brought home on workers’ hair, skin and clothing, exposing loved ones to the fibers.

Veterans

Asbestos was widely used throughout the military exposing Navy, Army and Air Force veterans, among others.

Types

There are four main types of mesothelioma based on tumor location. The most common type is malignant pleural mesothelioma. The mesothelioma tumors are made up of different cell types. The three most common mesothelioma cell types include epithelioid, sarcomatoid and biphasic. Symptoms, prognosis and treatment options vary depending on mesothelioma type and cell type.

Pleural Mesothelioma

Mesothelioma Pleural Lung Diagram
  • Develops in the lining of the lungs.
  • Is the most common type of the disease, accounting for 80 – 90% of all diagnoses.

Peritoneum Mesothelioma

Peritoneal Mesothelioma Diagram
  • Develops in the lining of the abdomen.
  • It is the second most common form of the disease, accounting for about 15 – 20% of all diagnoses.

Pericardium Mesothelioma

Pericardial Mesothelioma
  • Develops in the lining of the heart.
  • Pericardial mesothelioma is an extremely rare form of the disease, accounting for only 1 – 2% of all mesothelioma diagnoses.

Diagnosing Mesothelioma

Doctors will use a number of tests and procedures after identifying symptoms in order to establish a mesothelioma diagnosis. Only biopsies can provide a conclusive diagnosis of mesothelioma. Location and staging may be determined with the aid of other diagnostic instruments. Once mesothelioma has been identified, it will be divided into one of four stages by medical professionals. The prognosis and available treatments will be determined by the stage of mesothelioma.

Stages

At stage 1 or 2, patients have the most treatment options. By stages 3 and 4, treatment options are generally more limited, as the cancer has spread.

Mesothelioma Stages 1-4

Stage 1

  • Cancer is localized.
  • Aggressive treatment options are still viable, including surgery.
  • Average life expectancy is around 21 months.

Stage 2

  • Cancer has spread to nearby organs and lymph nodes.
  • Aggressive treatment options remain viable.
  • Average life expectancy is around 19 months.

Stage 3

  • Cancer continues to spread to nearby organs and tissue.
  • Treatment options become limited.
  • Average life expectancy is around 16 months.

Stage 4

  • Cancer has spread nearby and distantly.
  • Palliative care may ease symptoms.
  • Average life expectancy is around 12 months.

What do you think?

Written by Henry Okafor

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