by KImberley Allen R.N.
Mesothelioma is a form of cancer that affectsthe protective lining that covers most of our internal organs. At one time it was
considered to be a rare form of cancer that is caused by exposure to asbestos. It is considered the most serious of all the asbestos
related diseases. Mesothelioma is diagnosed in approximately 3,000 Americans every year.
Though it is known that mesothelioma is caused by exposure to asbestos the exact mechanism is not known. Some people that are exposed to asbestos for years never develop mesothelioma where as others that have had only a brief exposure do. Also, it can take 20-40 years and sometimes longer for the disease to develop. Though personal exposure to asbestos at work or home is the primary risk factor for developing mesothelioma there are others. If you live with someone that works around asbestos and they don’t shower and change clothing before returning home there are usually stray fibers on their clothes and skin that are carried into your home. There has also been research indicating that exposure to radiation therapy treatments in
the chest area can also lead to mesothelioma.
There are different types of mesothelioma. The type of mesothelioma is determined by the organ where it developes and the type of cell it invades.
Pleural mesothelioma is the most commonly diagnosed type of mesothelioma in the US. Approximately 80% of all cases of
mesothelioma involves the lungs. This type is difficult to diagnose as the symptoms mimic several other diseases. If you have a history of asbestos and are expeiencing symptoms that you believe are related to mesothelioma inform ypur Dr and request a CT scan. As with all forms of mesothelioma it spreads to other organs including the brain.
Peritoneal mesothelioma begins in the abdomen before spreading to other organs in the area like the liver, spleen and even the
intestines. The most common symptom is severe abdominal pain. There may be other gastrointestinal symptoms like nausea and vomiting, or difficulty with bowel movemonts.
Pericardial mesothelioma involes what is known as the “pericardial sac”, it’s the membrane that surrounds the heart. Thyis is the least common of all the mesotheliomas. The symptoms of this type are similar to those of a heart attack.
Each type of mesothelioma has different sub-types depending on the type of cell involved. for example, if the cells involved are
epithelial cells then it’s epithelial mesothlioma etc.
The major problem with getting effective treatment of mesothelioma is that it is a seriously aggressive disease that is not usually
discovered until late in the disease process. The type of and extent of treatment depends on what stage the disease is in and how
aggressive the patient wants to treat the disease. As of now there is no proven or reliable cure for mesothelioma. The most important to do after being diagnosed is to find and choose a mesothelioma specialist. Most local physicians will refer you to a larger cancer center that has specialists in the different types of cancer including mesothelioma. The most frequently used treatments used are surgery, radiation and chemotherapy.
Unfortunately even with treatment the survival rate for people diagnosed with mesothelioma are extremely low, usually one maybe two years. However, there are always exceptions and more research continues to be done in an effort to increase the survival rates.
Those that are already in general good health and diagnosed in the early stages have the best chance of responding to treatment. If you know you have a history of asbestos exposure such as having worked in a high risk environment learn the symptoms of mesothelioma and keep your Dr informed. The earlier the disease is diagnosed the greater
your chances for survival.
Kimberly Allen is a registered nurse with an AND in nursing. She has worked in ACF, LCF and psychiatric facilities, although she spent most of her career as a home health expert. She is now a regular contributor to HealthAndFitnessTalk.com, dispensing advice and knowledge about medical issues and questions. You can reach her with any comments or questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.