CausesThis cancer is caused by prolonged exposure to asbestos. Asbestos was a commonly used building material years ago before anyone knew how hazardous it was to their health. It is a natural fiber that is still mined all over the world today.
SummaryAsbestos is a natural mineral that is made up of varying lengths of fibers. These asbestos fibers we now know is carcinogenic (cancer causing). When asbestos is disturbed, as in renovations of old houses, the asbestos dust and fibers become airborne. These airborne particles are then swallowed or inhaled and become lodged in the soft tissue of the body, usually in the lungs. The immune system kicks in and inflammation is the result. The body can't remove foreign bodies so it attempts to break down these fibers, and scarring occurs. This stage is called asbestosis. Asbestosis is not a cancer; it is an uncomfortable lung condition that, years later can leads to the development of abnormal cells. These cells eventually develop into tumors. This is now mesothelioma. Please fill out the form below if you'd like to receive more information on this disease.
Types of MesotheliomaDepending on where the asbestos fibers become lodged in the body, determines the type of mesothelioma that a person develops. There are three main kinds of mesothelioma.
Pleural mesothelioma is the most common type. In this case, the asbestos particles have been inhaled and become embedded in the lining of the chest cavity.
Peritoneal mesothelioma is the second most common form. Here the asbestos particles were swallowed directly or somehow caught up in the mucous in the trachea and swallowed that way. They have traveled down to the stomach and become embedded in the abdominal wall.
Pericardial mesothelioma is the rarest form of this disease and is responsible for less than 10% of the patients diagnosed with mesothelioma. The pericardium is the sac of tissue covering the heart and the base of the main blood vessels. It's unknown for sure how the particles make their way to the chest region but the current theory believes the particles are somewhat broken down by the body and are possibly carried via the bloodstreams into the heart where they become embedded in the pericardium.
DiagnosisPart of the problem with making a correct diagnosis of mesothelioma is the length of time between the exposure to asbestos and the time it takes for the symptoms to appear. In many cases signs of mesothelioma don't show up for twenty to thirty or even forty years later. Initially, the symptoms appear as a tight sensation in the chest, coughing, maybe some vomiting, possibly even weight loss. But this could pass as flu or cold symptoms. Over time, these symptoms get worse, the tightness in the chest becomes more severe, abdominal pain starts, there is trouble breathing, and the weight loss and vomiting could become quite severe. It's at this point that most people go and see their physician.
He would, hopefully know about your asbestos exposure, and therefore would take a complete medical history and do a comprehensive physical exam. He would be looking for:
- Fluid in the chest cavity (signs of pleural mesothelioma),
- Fluid in the abdomen (signs of peritoneal mesothelioma),
- Fluid in the pericardium (signs of pericardium mesothelioma).
Once a diagnosis has been made, a comprehensive treatment plan is developed. If at this point, you feel you'd like to receive more information please fill out the form below.
TreatmentAs there is no cure for mesothelioma, all treatments are geared to prolonging the patient's life span and or making the patient as comfortable as possible by alleviating the painful symptoms.
- Surgery - some tumors may be removed. In the early stages of this disease, surgery can provide improvement in the symptoms and slow the disease's progression. In cases where the surgery has gone beyond the chest, this treatment option is less effective. It may help advanced cases breathe easier and feel more comfortable.
- Chemotherapy - used to stop the cancer cells from growing and dividing. This treatment uses very toxic drug (s) to kill the tumor cells but will also kill off many healthy cells. The newer drugs have shown fewer side effects and if some drugs are combined they can have the ability to reduce the toxic side effects.
- Radiation - this treatment sends high doses of radiation to kill cancer cells in a localized area. It's also used to shrink the size of the tumors prior to surgery and to reduce the level of discomfort. Even though radiation can more accurately target the affected area, some damage to healthy cells does occur.
It's natural when faced with such a difficult prognosis to look at alternative therapies not only as a potential improvement in your condition but also to improve your quality of life.