How people see mesothelioma is changing. Everyday scientific research and increased awareness are drastically leading to earlier diagnosis, plus improved and a more developing treatments to mesothelioma are allowing patients to even live longer than they thought. More surgeons and oncologists are becoming more familiar with malignant mesothelioma and this in otherwords will enable patients to extend their life expectancy and increase their chances of surviving this disease.
But before we discuss about the types of Mesothelioma, sign and symptoms, causes and treatment, let’s first of all know what mesothelioma is.
Mesothelioma, also known as Malignant mesothelioma is a rare type of cancer that forms from the thin lining of the body’s internal organs, known as the mesothelium. Just as the word malignant implies, it is a such a deadly disease that if left untreated, could lead to the extinction of one’s life.
Signs and Symptoms of Mesothelioma
Mesothelioma symptoms do not usually show up until tumors have grown and spread, and they begin to press against the chest wall or abdominal cavity.
Signs and symptoms of mesothelioma may include the following;
- Shortness of breath due to fluid around the lung,
- A swollen abdomen,
- Chest wall pain,
- Feeling tired, and
- Weight loss. (These symptoms typically come on slowly).
Types of Mesothelioma
There are three primary types of mesothelioma;
- Malignant pleural mesothelioma – occurs in the lining of the lungs (pleura)
- Malignant peritoneal mesothelioma – occurs in the lining of the abdomen (peritoneum)
- Malignant pericardial mesothelioma – occurs in the lining of the heart (pericardium)
Causes of Malignant Mesothelioma
Mesothelioma is basically caused by asbestos exposure. Asbestos is a toxic, naturally occurring mineral that was once regarded for its insulation and fire-retardant properties until the 1980s. Microscopic asbestos fibers enter the body by consistent inhalation or ingestion. Once Microscopic asbestos fibers find their way inside the body, the asbestos fibers can cause inflammation and scarring, which leads to the development of cancerous mesothelioma cells.
There is a long latency period between initial asbestos exposure and the onset of mesothelioma symptoms – most atimes, it takes a long period of about 30 to 50 years. Exposure can come directly, men who were exposed to asbestos while serving in the military or working certain high-risk blue-collar jobs or indirectly through secondary exposure. Spouses and children of those exposed to asbestos have developed malignant mesothelioma. Secondary exposure also occurs when washing the clothes of someone in a high-risk occupation. Living near abandoned asbestos mines or areas where asbestos occurs naturally in the environment, can lead to such exposure.
Treatment of Mesothelioma
“Mesothelioma is not just a death sentence anymore. There have been wonderful advancements in treating this disease in recent years.”
– Dr. Rodney LandreneauThoracic Surgeon
Mesothelioma prognosis is poor, as often the disease will be diagnosed in its later stages after symptoms have appeared. However, there are several treatment options for the management of this type of cancer.
Surgery – Surgery for malignant mesothelioma involves the removal of all or part of the pleura, peritoneum, or pericardium. Portions of adjacent organs and lymph nodes may also be removed if the cancer has spread to them.
Chemotherapy – is used to kill fast-growing malignant mesothelioma cells throughout the body. It is frequently used in addition to surgery, so as to destroy any cancer cells that may have been left behind after the procedure.
Radiation – can help shrink tumors and prevent cancer cells from spreading again, thus possibly preventing recurrence. Radiation is often used as an adjuvant therapy, after the main treatment of surgery and/or chemotherapy is administered.
More serious therapies are now possible for patients with mesothelioma diagnosed in its earlier stages. Let’s take for instance, extrapleural pneumonectomy is now an option for many pleural mesothelioma patients who are deemed fit for aggressive surgery.
Extrapleural pneumonectomy: Involves the removal of the entire affected lung, the pericardium, the pleura, and the diaphragm.
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