Different Types of Mesothelioma

Mesothelioma is a serious and aggressive form of cancer that affects an estimated 14 to 30 people out of every million every year across the United States. This accounts for more than 2,000 new mesothelioma cases annually. Unlike other forms of cancer, mesothelioma is extremely dangerous and deadly because it is extremely difficult to catch in early stages because the symptoms often resemble those of more common diseases.

Cancer Wing - Memorial HospitalThe primary cause of mesothelioma is inhaling asbestos, an extremely resistant and durable fiber found in a variety of construction materials used for fire retardant and insulation. When these fibers are disturbed and released into the air, they can get lodged in the membrane’s that surround vital organs and eventually cause tumors to form.

Mesothelioma was first linked to breathing in asbestos fibers in 1964. The National Institute of Health now estimates that roughly 11 million people were exposed to asbestos between 1940 and 1978. Mesothelioma is also a unique cancer in that it typically has a latency period of 25 to 50 years before the patient begins to experience any serious symptoms. Unfortunately, by the time symptoms do arise, it is often too late.

Asbestos exposure doesn’t affect everyone the same way. The fibers can get stuck in a number of different places in the body, causing different forms of mesothelioma to develop. The three major types of mesothelioma include pleural, peritoneal, and pericardial mesothelioma.

Pleural Mesothelioma

Pleural mesothelioma is the most common type of mesothelioma and is found in roughly three-fourths of all mesothelioma cases. This form of mesothelioma forms in the lining of the lungs, or the pleura. When asbestos is inhaled and gets trapped in the pleura it can cause scar tissue and eventually tumors to form.

Patients suffering from pleural mesothelioma will usually experience shortness of breath and severe coughing. These symptoms are often confused with a serious flu or other lung disease.

Peritoneal Mesothelioma

This is the second most common form of mesothelioma and is found in anywhere between 10 and 20 percent of all mesothelioma cases. Peritoneal mesothelioma forms in the lining of the abdomen, or the peritoneum. Those suffering from peritoneal mesothelioma often experience a distended stomach, weight loss, and obstructed bowels.

If caught early, peritoneal mesothelioma can be treated. Unfortunately, it is typically not caught until the later stages and is much harder to treat. In fact, a patient’s life expectancy is almost twice as long if mesothelioma is caught in stage one as opposed to stage two.

Pericardial Mesothelioma

This is the rarest of all mesothelioma cases and affects the lining of the heart. Those who suffer from pericardial mesothelioma may experience heart murmurs, irregular heartbeat, shortness of breath, chest pain, and a possible heart attack.

In extremely rare cases, mesothelioma may also occur in the testicles; however, fewer than 100 cases have ever been reported. A mesothelioma diagnosis can be extremely serious and is typically a death sentence. Roughly 50 percent of all patients will live 8 to 18 months after treatment while 30 percent or more may live five years or longer.

Along with receiving medical treatment, many mesothelioma victims also take legal action and file a mesothelioma or asbestos lawsuit against asbestos manufacturers or construction companies for negligently removing the asbestos.

Treatment Options

Although mesothelioma is an extremely serious and aggressive form of cancer, there are some treatment options available. Unfortunately, there is no cure for mesothelioma, but if caught in the early stages, there are a number of treatment options to kill cancerous cells and prevent tumors from spreading to prolong life and improve the overall quality of life for the patient.

Pleural MesotheliomaThere are a number of factors that determine what type of treatment a patient receives. This includes the stage of mesothelioma and how early doctors catch it, the form of mesothelioma, and the patient’s medical history. There are currently both standard treatment options as well as experimental treatment options that are still in clinical trial.

Mesothelioma can form in a number of areas in the human body. The most common is known as pleural mesothelioma and forms in the pleura of the lungs. This is found in an estimated three-fourths of all cases. Mesothelioma can also form in the abdomen – known as peritoneal mesothelioma – and also in the heart as pericardial mesothelioma.

There are different treatment options available for each form of mesothelioma. This includes radiation, chemotherapy, and also surgery.

Surgery

Surgery is the most common treatment for mesothelioma and is usually reserved for patients whose cancer was caught in the early stages and hasn’t spread past the lymph nodes. This treatment is used to remove the cancerous tumors to prevent them from spreading any further throughout the body. There are a number of forms of surgery including the following:

  • Wide local excision – This form of surgery removes the tumors or cancer and some healthy tissue surrounding the cancer.
  • Pleurectomy and decortication – Removes a portion of the lining of the lungs, the lining of the chest, and even a portion of the outside surface of the lungs
  • Extrapleural pneumonectomy – Surgery to remove one lung, part of the lining of the chest, the diaphragm, and the lignin of the sac surrounding the heart

Chemotherapy and Radiation

Surgery can be a very effective way to treat mesothelioma; however, most mesothelioma patients also need additional treatment in the form of radiation or chemotherapy to kill the remaining cancer cells and prolong the patient’s life as much as possible.

Radiation therapy is used to treat a number of different types of cancer as well as mesothelioma. This therapy uses x-rays or other forms of radiation to kill cancer cells and prevent new ones from growing. This can include both external and internal radiation. External radiation comes from a machine outside the body and is sent directly toward the targeted area. On the other hand, internal radiation is administered using needles, seeds, or catheters that are placed into the body close to the affected area.

Chemotherapy is another popular cancer treatment that uses drugs to kill cancer cells and stop them from multiplying.  The drugs can be administered either by mouth in the form of a pill or can be injected straight into the bloodstream. The type of chemotherapy give depends greatly on the stage of mesothelioma.

What are the Symptoms of Mesothelioma?

Mesothelioma is such a dangerous and deadly form of cancer because it usually isn’t diagnosed until the later stages. At that point, any treatment can really on prolong life and improve the patient’s remaining months or years, not effectively treat it. That is why it is important to know the symptoms of mesothelioma. By knowing the signs of mesothelioma, you may be able to seek medical attention and catch the disease early on.

PleuraMesothelioma is primarily caused by exposure to asbestos fibers in the air. When someone breaths in these fibers, they get trapped in the lining of the lungs, stomach, or heart forming scar tissue and eventually tumors. Unlike other forms of cancer, a patient with mesothelioma usually doesn’t start showing symptoms of mesothelioma until 20 to 50 years after he or she was exposed to asbestos.

Statistics report that the median latency period is 30 to 45 years with the shortest possible period of 10 to 15 years. Early symptoms of mesothelioma do not arise until after the cancer has formed but usually include coughing, fatigue, shortness of breath, and trouble breathing. These symptoms can be deceiving because they resemble symptoms of less serious illnesses, and by the time you seek treatment, it is too late.

That is why it is so important to be aware of your health, especially important if you have history of asbestos exposure. That way you can inform your doctor to the possibility of an asbestos-related disease like lung cancer, asbestosis, and mesothelioma.

Pleural Mesothelioma Symptoms

Pleural mesothelioma affects the pleura, or the protective lining surrounding the lungs. This is the most common type of mesothelioma and is the diagnosis in 75 percent of all mesothelioma cases. Symptoms of pleural mesothelioma include the following:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pains
  • Harsh breathing sounds
  • Sever cough
  • Wheezing
  • Reduced expansion of the chest

Symptoms of Other Types of Mesothelioma

Two other types of mesothelioma are peritoneal and pericardial mesothelioma. Peritoneal mesothelioma is present in 10 to 20 percent of all cases and attacks the abdomen area. Some of the most common symptoms of this kind of mesothelioma are:

  • Severe abdominal pain
  • Enlargement of the abdomen or a “distended” stomach
  • Tender stomach
  • Fluid buildup between the peritoneum and the organs in the abdomen. This is known as ascites.
  • Loss of appetite and sudden weight loss. Studies suggest that 69 percent of patient lost weight.
  • Bowel obstruction
  • In rare cases, seizures

Other Types of Mesothelioma

Pericardial mesothelioma is a very rare form of mesothelioma and affects the lining of the heart. These patients may experience chest pains and difficulty breathing. In extremely rare cases, mesothelioma can form in the testicles. The only symptom of this is a lump in the testes.

If you experience any of the above symptoms of mesothelioma and know you have been exposed to asbestos in the past, you may be suffering from mesothelioma. Make sure you mention this to your medical professional so he or she can test for mesothelioma.

The Causes Of Mesothelioma?

Mesothelioma, a form of cancer that attacks the linings of major organs like the lungs, abdomen, and heart, was a rare form of cancer until asbestos products became very popular for industrial and commercial use during the early to mid 20th century. Then, when doctors first linked mesothelioma to asbestos exposure in 1964, it became evident that exposure to asbestos fibers in the air was extremely dangerous and could cause serious, life-changing illnesses.

Biological ChangesBetween 1940 and 1978, an estimated 11 million people were exposed to asbestos in the United States and the number of mesothelioma cases is expected to peak by the year 2020. There are also an estimated 2,000 new cases of mesothelioma every year across the United States. Researchers have determined the primary cause of mesothelioma is asbestos, but where does one come in contact with asbestos?

Asbestos was used in homes and businesses around the country in a number of products because of its fire-retardant and insulating qualities until the 1980s. People were at risk of being exposed if they worked at an asbestos plant, lived near an asbestos mine, renovated a home with asbestos, or even served on a military ship where asbestos was used.

Heavy exposure to asbestos puts you at serious risk of mesothelioma, but you can also suffer potentially serious side effects during your first exposure to the material. After inhaling or ingesting asbestos, the fibers then get trapped inside the mesothelial linings of the lungs, heart, or abdomen, causing a number of biological changes that could eventually cause mesothelioma.

When Mesothelioma Develops

There is no absolute answer as to the exact why asbestos causes mesothelioma but there are a number of theories. All of these theories are based on the idea that asbestos disrupts a cell’s natural cycle, eventually leading to the cells dividing and growing rapidly before forming tumors. These theories include:

  • Uncontrolled growth
  • Inflamed cells
  • Genetic changes
  • Cancerous mutations

Even though asbestos has been determined to be the primary cause of mesothelioma, there are some other potential risk factors that could lead to this devastating disease. This includes the following:

Many people believe smoking can cause mesothelioma. And while research has shown this is not the case, smoking can severely weaken the lungs, making it harder for the body to expel asbestos fibers from the lungs. One way you can take action and look out for your health is to inform your doctor if you have been exposed to asbestos in the past so he or she is informed of your risk.

There is currently no known cure for mesothelioma; however, there are ways you can help prevent mesothelioma. One of the best ways you can do this is by taking control of your own health and visiting the doctor for a check-up on a regular basis. This is especially important if you know you have been exposed to asbestos in the past.

The Aftermath of a Mesothelioma Diagnosis

More than 2,000 new cases of mesothelioma are reported every year in the United States. This accounts for anywhere between 14 and 30 out of a million people annually. Because of its severity and aggressive nature, a mesothelioma diagnosis can be one of the scariest and uncertain times in your life. Along with feeling frightened, shocked, and worries, you may also feel angry or even depressed as you begin to contemplate the seriousness of this diagnosis and what it means for you and your family.

Mesothelioma TestMesothelioma is especially frightening because it often isn’t diagnosed until the later stages. This is because the symptoms resemble those of other, less-serious illnesses. So when a patient is diagnosed, he or she is usually in stage two or three and faces a much tougher treatment battle. There are also is no known cure for mesothelioma at the moment and most treatment is meant to only prolong life or improve the patient’s comfort and overall quality of life. Unfortunately, an estimated 50 percent of all mesothelioma patients have a life span of only 8 to 18 months.

This doesn’t mean there isn’t hope. By taking appropriate action and seeking the best medical treatment available, you may have a chance at treating your mesothelioma and extending your life from months to years. One of the biggest reasons patients feel overwhelmed or frightened is because they don’t have a clear knowledge or understating of mesothelioma. If you have been diagnosed with mesothelioma, one of the best things you can do is learn as much as possible and speak with professionals.

One of the first things you should do after receiving a mesothelioma diagnosis is to seek a second opinion. Many patients do not think to get a second opinion because they trust their doctor or do not want to offend him or her by seeing someone else. Because this cancer is so rare and so life-altering, you need to get a second opinion before pursuing any treatment. If possible, your second opinion should be from a mesothelioma expert who has experience diagnosing and treating this form of cancer.

Along with seeking a second option, you should also make sure you are asking as many questions and finding out as much information as possible. Don’t be afraid to ask your doctor any question you have. By understanding your condition, you can better handle the treatment and everything else associated with mesothelioma.

One mistake many patients make is not pursuing medical treatment as soon as possible. You should begin treatment very soon after your diagnosis to maximize the potential for removing tumors, killing cancer cells, and prolonging life as much as possible. If you were diagnosed in the early stages of mesothelioma, you may be able to eliminate the cancer through surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation.

Treatment is still useful in the later stages of mesothelioma. Although the life expectancy is 13 months for Stage III and 6.5 months for Stage IV, treatment can help improve your overall quality of life and possibly even extend your time as much as possible.

Additionally, many mesothelioma victims can recover financial compensation to pay for medical bills, funeral costs, and other expenses by filing a mesothelioma lawsuit.

Detecting Mesothelioma: Symptoms and Warning Signs

Detecting symptoms of any disease or illness is essential in getting a timely diagnosis and receiving the necessary treatment as early as possible. This is no different for people suffering from mesothelioma, a rare form of cancer that affects the lining of various organs in a person’s body, as treatment for this cancer is most effective early on and the prognosis for an affected person is substantially less positive when in the later stages of this disease.

CellUnfortunately, mesothelioma has a long latency period that can be anywhere from ten to forty years. As asbestos, mineral fibers that get inhaled or ingested and stuck in the lining of organs, is considered to be the most common cause of mesothelioma, this means that someone exposed to asbestos may not know they have developed this disease until decades after the exposure. Sadly, this often means that a person will not start showing signs of the cancer until it is in its later stages, making a person’s survival chances much lower. Additionally, even when a person does start exhibiting signs of the disease, the symptoms are often ignored as unimportant or insignificant or misdiagnosed as signs of a less serious illness, such as a cold.

Possible Signs of Mesothelioma

Although the signs of mesothelioma are hard to detect, there are certain symptoms a person can look for when they believe they may have mesothelioma. While there are some common symptoms that may manifest in anyone with this cancer, many of the signs are typically symptomatic of the specific form of mesothelioma that a person has. For example, if a person has pleural mesothelioma, the most common form of this disease that affects the lining of a person’s lungs, they may lower back pain, chest pain, and difficulty breathing. A lasting cough and coughing up blood may also be signs that a person has pleural mesothelioma. On the other hand, if a person has peritoneal mesothelioma, a form of mesothelioma that affects the lining of a person’s abdomen, they may show signs of stomach pain, significant weight loss, and vomiting.

Besides specific symptoms for certain forms of this cancer, there are some common symptoms that anyone with mesothelioma may experience, including the following:

  • Blood clotting disorders and problems – many people with mesothelioma experience trouble forming blood clots, which can lead to other serious health problems, such as anemia.
  • Anemia –it is common for people with mesothelioma to develop lower than average red blood cell counts, causing extreme fatigue and other health complications if left untreated.
  • Fluid effusion – this is a buildup of fluid that occurs in either the pleural or the pericardium
  • Weight loss – this symptom can be seen in patients with varying forms of the cancer, although it typically is most severe in those with peritoneal mesothelioma due to pain in the stomach and nausea. However, fatigue and other pain may cause people with other forms to lose weight as well.

While these and other symptoms of mesothelioma are often hard to detect or do not manifest until later stages of the disease, a person who shows any of these signs and has been exposed to asbestos should get checked immediately.

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