Mesothelioma is a rare form of cancer in which malignant (cancerous) cells are located in the mesothelium, a protective layer that covers most of the body’s internal organs.
How many cases of Mesothelioma are diagnosed annually?
Over 2,000 new cases of Mesothelioma are diagnosed annually in the United States.
What are the common risk factors for Mesothelioma?
Working with or around asbestos is a major risk factor for Mesothelioma. Since the 1930s, millions of workers have been unknowingly exposed to asbestos fibers and dust. A heightened risk of developing Mesothelioma occurs in those working directly with asbestos in such occupations as shipyard workers, construction workers, mechanics, tradesmen/union employees, enlisted/service men, HVAC workers, and countless other workers.
In addition, secondary/household exposure to asbestos can equally lead to a diagnosis of Mesothelioma. The risk may be the consequence of exposure to asbestos dust and fibers brought home on the clothing and body of asbestos workers.
Both men and women can be diagnosed with Mesothelioma, although a greater percentage of men seem to be diagnosed each year.
What are the symptoms leading up to a diagnosis of Mesothelioma?
Typically, symptoms of Mesothelioma do not appear until 20 or more years after exposure to asbestos. Common initial symptoms of Mesothelioma are specific to the type of Mesothelioma.
- Pleural Mesothelioma – shortness of breath, pain or discomfort in the chest and weight loss. These symptoms may be the result of fluid retention/accumulation in the pleura, lining that surrounds the lungs and lines the wall of the chest cavity.
- Peritoneal Mesothelioma – weight loss and abdominal pain, discomfort, or swelling. These symptoms may be the result of fluid retention/accumulation in the abdomen. Other common symptoms may include bowel obstruction, blood clotting and fever.
If diagnosed with Mesothelioma, what treatments are available?
Mesothelioma is very difficult to diagnose because the symptoms associated with the disease are similar to those of many other afflictions. Treating doctors will typically review a patient’s medical and employment history, noting any history of asbestos exposure. Diagnosis may then begin with one or more of the following:
- a complete physical examination,
- X-rays of the chest or abdomen,
- pulmonary function tests, and/or
- CT (or CAT) scan or MRI.
Treatment for Mesothelioma depends upon the location of the malignant cancer, the stage of the illness, and the patient’s age and general health. Standard treatment options include surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy. At times, treatment options may be combined to maximize results.