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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.

The Variations of Mesothelioma

Because of its fire-retardant and insulating properties, asbestos was used in a good number of construction and building materials, such as shingles for roofs, tiles, car parts like clutches and brakes, packaging, products that are heat resistant, cement products, and coatings. Despite the strength and other beneficial properties of asbestos, this mineral fiber has a number of drawbacks as well, namely its ability to cause tumors and cancer in people who inadvertently inhale or get the fibers in their bodies.

AsbestosUnfortunately, when products made with asbestos are disturbed or broken, dangerous fibers are released into the air and environment, making it easy for people to inhale them. When a person inhales these fibers, they get stuck in the lining of a person’s organs, such as the stomach, heart, and lungs, causing tumors to grow. When this happens, a person has developed the type of cancer known as mesothelioma. Depending on where the fibers get stuck in the body, the type of mesothelioma that a person develops will vary.

While mesothelioma can affect other organs of the body, there are three places where the fibers most commonly stick and form tumors – the stomach, the heart, and the lungs. The three forms of mesothelioma that this causes are the following:

  • Pleural Mesothelioma – Out of these three forms of mesothelioma, this form of mesothelioma is the most common to affect people. It forms in the lining of a person’s lungs known as the pleura. Symptoms of this form of mesothelioma include difficulty breathing, shortness of breath, pressure felt in the lungs or chest, and coughing fits. Unfortunately, these symptoms may take a long time to appear, and doctors often mistakenly diagnose these symptoms as the flu.
  • Peritoneal Mesothelioma – Behind pleural mesothelioma, peritoneal mesothelioma is the second most common form of mesothelioma to affect Americans. In fact, nearly 30% of the people diagnosed with mesothelioma have this form of the cancer. Peritoneal mesothelioma forms when asbestos fibers affect the cells in the peritoneum, which is the lining of the abdominal cavity. This form of cancer can develop in a person when they either inhale the dangerous asbestos fibers or ingest them. Symptoms of this form of mesothelioma include stomach swelling, unnatural loss of weight, and obstruction of a person’s bowel.
  • Pericardial Mesothelioma –This form of mesothelioma is perhaps one of the most frightening as it forms in the mesothelium, or lining, of the heart. Unlike the other forms of mesothelioma, doctors are less certain of how exactly the asbestos fibers get to the lining of the heart, but it is theorized that the fibers get into the bloodstream and get caught in the lining when the heart is processing the blood. Symptoms of this form of mesothelioma include a lasting cough, heart murmurs, sweating during the night, an off heartbeat, pain in the chest, a heart attack, and fatigue.

Regardless of what form of mesothelioma a person has, it is a serious diagnosis that requires significant and intense treatment in order to give a person a chance at beating the disease.

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