Description, Causes and Risk Factors:

Mesothelioma is a form of cancer, which affects the thin membranes which line the chest. Less commonly it affects the lining of the abdomen. It may also surround the organs found within these cavities for example heart, lung, and intestines. It is estimated that between 2,000 and 3,000 people die each year from mesothelioma in the US. The numbers are difficult to verify because mesothelioma is often misdiagnosed as another type of cancer.

Types may include: Pleural mesothelioma and peritoneal mesothelioma.

Exposure to asbestos is responsible for the majority of cases. Asbestos is commonly found in insulation, ceiling and roofing vinyls, cement, and automotive brake materials. It has previously been a rare disease but is now occurring more frequently because of the heavy use of asbestos in the post-war years.

For most people diagnosed with mesothelioma the exposure happened 20-40 years previously. Sometimes the asbestos exposure may have been very brief and not always easy to identify. Mesothelioma is however more common in people who have had repeated exposure, usually in a work environment. There are several types of asbestos all of which have been known to cause.

Malignant mesothelioma affects men more often than women. The average age at diagnosis is 60.


Symptoms may include:

    Constant chest pain.

  • Chronic cough that worsens over time.

  • Hemoptysis (coughing up blood).

  • A mass in the abdomen.

  • Abdominal pain and/or swelling.

  • Swollen lymph nodes.

  • Lung infection (pneumonia, bronchitis).

  • Dyspnea (difficulty breathing).

  • Shortness of breath.

  • Wheezing.

  • Fatigue.

  • Weight loss.

  • Loss of appetite.


Early diagnosis is difficult. In most cases the first obvious sign issudden breathlessness caused by an accumulation of fluid in thepleural space. Scans and X-rays can provide strong evidence tosupport the diagnosis especially coupled with a history of asbestosexposure.

However, other diseases can produce these symptoms and tobe certain of a correct diagnosis more investigations often needto be carried out. Scans, fluid taken for laboratory examination,needle biopsy or keyhole surgery to take a biopsy are likely to be carried out to help confirmation ofdiagnosis. These tests and results could take several weeks tocomplete.


Although there is no cure yet for mesothelioma, there are treatments that may help slow its progression and metastasis (spreading). These include surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and combination therapy. Most patients undergo surgery and chemotherapy. Sometimes radiation therapy is employed, including innovative techniques such as TomoTherapy and intensity modulated radiation therapy. Oncologists use brachytherapy for targeted radiation treatment of the tumor. The antifolate drug pemetrexed (Alimta) in combination with cisplatin has been embraced by many mesothelioma specialists. Median survival time, even with good medical care, is fairly low.

Tests and trials with gene therapy and immunotherapy are sometimes done on mesothelioma cases, but the standard cancer treatment modalities of surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy remain the most used techniques in mesothelioma treatment.

Disclaimer: The above information is educational purpose. The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition.

DISCLAIMER: This information should not substitute for seeking responsible, professional medical care.


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