Malignant mesothelioma is a form of cancer in which the cells of the mesothelium become cancerous and divide uncontrollably, invading nearby organs and tissues. Those cells can also spread (or metastasize) from the original site to other parts of the body.
Pleural mesothelioma comprises three-quarters of all mesothelioma cases. This form of mesothelioma is a cancer of the cells in the pleura, which is the lining around the outside of the lungs and inside of the ribs.
Peritoneal Mesothelioma, also known as 'abdominal mesothelioma' is cancer found in the peritoneum, which is a thin membrane in the abdomen. Peritoneal mesothelioma is a fast-moving fatal disease. There is no effective treatment for peritoneal mesothelioma at this time. The average survival period is less than a year.
Pericardial Mesothelioma is a rare form of mesothelioma which affects the pericardium, the thin tissue which surrounds and protects the heart. There appears to be a link to asbestos, although it has not been established definitively because of the rarity of this kind of mesothelioma.
Mesothelioma often affects people who have inhaled asbestos particles. This may happen on the job or in the houses in which they live. Exposure to asbestos for as little as a month or as much as 50 years may cause mesothelioma.
Annually, more than 2,000 new cases of mesothelioma are diagnosed in the United States. Early diagnosis is key to treatment of mesothelioma.
One of the most common symptoms of mesothelioma is an accumulation of fluid between the lining of the lung and the chest cavity. This is known as a pleural effusion. As the volume of fluid increases, dyspnea, or shortness of breath.
The symptoms of mesothelioma may take decades to appear. They are also rather non-specific, which serves to delay diagnosis. Other mesothelioma symptoms can include:
- shortness of breath
- chest pain
- abdominal pain
- persistent cough
- swelling due to fluid buildup
- bowel obstruction
- weight loss
- blood clotting abnormalities
- difficulty swallowing
- swelling of the face or neck
Only a doctor can diagnose mesothelioma. If you have been exposed to asbestos and exhibit these symptoms, you should see a doctor as soon as possible.