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Cancer Types

Mesothelioma Cancer

Mesothelioma Cancer Facts

What is Mesothelioma Cancer?

What is Mesothelioma Cancer?

What exactly is mesothelioma? One of the rarest of cancers, malignant mesothelioma develops in the mesothelium cells, a thin lubricating membrane that protects the body's internal organs. Typically mesothelioma develops in these organs of a person exposed to asbestos due to occupational reasons.

Occupational environments in which mesothelioma seem prevalent for exposure to asbestos are: mines, insulation manufacturers, ship builders, factory sites, steel mills, power plants, railroads, oil refineries and construction sites.

There are 3 types of mesothelioma:

Pericardial mesothelioma - This type of cancer forms in the lining of the heart and is believed to be caused by exposure to asbestos. Pericardial and testicular mesothelioma are among the rarest of cancers.

Pleural mesothelioma - This type of cancer forms in the thin lining of the lungs and is believed to be caused by exposure to asbestos and may easily spread to the abdomen and heart.

Peritoneal mesothelioma - This type of cancer forms in the thin lining along the abdomen called the peritoneum. This is believed to be caused by exposure to asbestos.

Light, electron microscopy and energy dispersive X-ray analysis are the best known methods used to identify asbestos and to estimate concentrations that may become airborne upon disturbance.?

Risk Factors

What are the risk factors for Mesothelioma?

Mesothelioma is caused by asbestos exposure and symptoms don't generally appear until 30 years after exposure.

There are 2 types of asbestos, Serpentine and Amphibole. Serpentine are curly fibers known as white or chrysotile asbestos usually found in industrial use. Amphibole fibers are straight and usually stay in the lungs longer than serpentine fibers.

When the asbestos fibers are either inhaled or swallowed, they stick to mucus in the trachea or the breathing tubes of the lungs; the bronchi tubes. Peritoneal mesothelioma, caused in the abdomen, may result from coughing up inhaled fibers and then swallowing them. Asbestos fibers are hard to clear and end up staying in the lungs traveling to the end of the breathing tubes, causing them to penetrate the lining of the lung wall. Once these fibers have reached the pleural lining, the fiber cells injure the mesothelium cells and in time cause mesothelioma.

Other causes of mesothelioma though rare, include high exposure to radiation in the abdomen and chest area, usually as a treatment of other cancers.

Injections of the radioactive material thorium dioxide were used by doctors in the 1950's for x-ray tests, but since it's been linked to causing mesothelioma, has since been discontinued.

Because asbestos fibers can be carried home on the clothes of those working in high exposure industries, family members of people exposed to asbestos at work can also have an increased risk of developing mesothelioma.?

What to Look For

What are the symptoms of Mesothelioma?

The rarest of cancers, mesothelioma can lay dormant for as much as 30 years because many times the symptoms are nonexistent or are very subtle, leaving many to go undiagnosed until its later stages. Research shows that when mesothelioma is caught early, the patient usually has a higher rate of survival.

Many patients usually report shortness of breath along with the feeling of heaviness in the chest area as an early symptom. Because these may not seem serious at first patients many times do not seek out medical treatment.

For Pleural mesothelioma, cancer on the lung or chest lining common symptoms include back pain, cough that won't go away, report difficulty swallowing.

For peritoneal mesothelioma, the cancer that forms on the abdomen lining, symptoms include fluid in the abdomen or a swollen abdomen, nausea, vomiting and unexplained weight loss.

For Pericardial mesothelioma, the rarest of cancers, has symptoms of other well-known heart conditions, making this a cancer that is usually diagnosed in later stages. Symptoms include, chest pain, fluid built up in the heart and thickening of the hearts protective lining. Irregular heartbeats, murmurs, cough fatigue and night sweats are also other symptoms.?

Tests

How is Mesothelioma diagnosed?

There are several test and procedures that are used in order to reach a complete diagnosis of mesothelioma which includes:

  • Tumor markers/blood test
  • Immunohistochemistry or IHC
  • CT/CAT Scan
  • MRI
  • PET scan
  • Pleuroscopy

Stages

What is the natural history of Mesothelioma?

Stages are used to assess the level of mesothelioma in the body. There are 4 staging systems used to assess the cancer spread and 4 stages. The diagnosing systems include Butchart, TNM, and the Bringham systems. The 4 stages of diagnosing the cancer include:

Stage 1: This localized cancer affects a very limited area with no tracers on other organs or tissue in the body and lymph nodes are not affected. At this stage the tumor is usually restricted to one side of the organs protective lining; is and may be removed with surgery.

Stage 2: The cancer tumors are larger and may affect the lymph nodes. The cancer however may have spread to both sides of the organs protective lining, making surgery more difficult.

Stage3: Usually in this stage the cancer has invaded the larger region or the whole region of the organ lining and the lining of other organs that are joined. Surgery is usually ruled out at this stage.

Stage 4: In this stage the cancer has usually spread far beyond the origin of the tumor. This stage usually incudes other distant organs being affected and may even have spread to the blood, spine, brain, thyroid, prostate or bone cells.

Types of Treatment

What are the treatment options for Mesothelioma?

Treatment for patients diagnosed with mesothelioma depends on their prognosis. An important part of treatment is staging of the cancer. The four stages of cancer identify how far the mesothelioma cancer has progressed and how to treat it.

Treatment plans usually involve surgery, radiation or chemotherapy, or a combination of these treatments. New and experimental treatments include photodynamic therapies, gene therapy and immunotherapy.

Advanced diagnosis in earlier stages usually means a longer life expectancy. There are two general types of surgical treatment: curative and palliative. Curative surgery is performed to seek the removal of the mesothelioma and Palliative procedures are performed to reduce the severity of symptoms.

Chemotherapy drugs, given usually in an intravenous drip, may be used to directly kill the cancer cell. Chemotherapy is also known to kill healthy cells too, causing patients to be sicker than originally diagnosed. In later stages, chemotherapy may be used with other treatments to help shrink the tumors.

Radiation is used to manage a tumors growth. Localized treatment helps shrink tumor size and may also be used in a palliative situation where surgery is not an option. Radiation is also known to be toxic and can damage DNA.

Alternative mesothelioma cancer treatments such as immunotherapy, uses the practice of manipulating the immune system to help fight the cancer growth. This new procedure involves alternating the cells in a patient's body in a laboratory and returning them in the infected patient's body to fight the cancer.

Gene therapy is used when the defective gene in the cancer patient is repaired with a modified virus. The genetic material in the virus attacks the cancer cells.

Photodynamic therapy (PDT) uses light energy to kill the cancer. In this process, a type of drug is administered to the blood stream that makes cells sensitive to certain wave lengths of light. Then when the cells are exposed to that light the cancer cells die. This new type of treatment has shown significant life expectancy when combined with other treatments such as surgery and chemotherapy.?

Mesothelioma Cancer Risk Factors

What are the risk factors for Mesothelioma?

Mesothelioma is caused by asbestos exposure and symptoms don't generally appear until 30 years after exposure.

There are 2 types of asbestos, Serpentine and Amphibole. Serpentine are curly fibers known as white or chrysotile asbestos usually found in industrial use.  Amphibole fibers are straight and usually stay in the lungs longer than serpentine fibers.

When the asbestos fibers are either inhaled or swallowed, they stick to mucus in the trachea or the breathing tubes of the lungs; the bronchi tubes.  Peritoneal mesothelioma, caused in the abdomen, may result from coughing up inhaled fibers and then swallowing them.  Asbestos fibers are hard to clear and end up staying in the lungs traveling to the end of the breathing tubes, causing them to penetrate the lining of the lung wall.  Once these fibers have reached the pleural lining, the fiber cells injure the mesothelium cells and in time cause mesothelioma.

Other causes of mesothelioma though rare, include high exposure to radiation in the abdomen and chest area, usually as a treatment of other cancers.

Injections of the radioactive material thorium dioxide were used by doctors in the 1950's for x-ray tests, but since it's been linked to causing mesothelioma, has since been discontinued.

Because asbestos fibers can be carried home on the clothes of those working in high exposure industries, family members of people exposed to asbestos at work can also have an increased risk of developing mesothelioma.?

What to Look for

What are the symptoms of Mesothelioma?

The rarest of cancers, mesothelioma can lay dormant for as much as 30 years because many times the symptoms are nonexistent or are very subtle, leaving many to go undiagnosed until its later stages.  Research shows that when mesothelioma is caught early, the patient usually has a higher rate of survival.

Many patients usually report shortness of breath along with the feeling of heaviness in the chest area as an early symptom.  Because these may not seem serious at first patients many times do not seek out medical treatment.

For Pleural mesothelioma, cancer on the lung or chest lining common symptoms include back pain, cough that won't go away, report difficulty swallowing.

For peritoneal mesothelioma, the cancer that forms on the abdomen lining, symptoms include fluid in the abdomen or a swollen abdomen, nausea, vomiting and unexplained weight loss. 

For Pericardial mesothelioma, the rarest of cancers, has symptoms of other well-known heart conditions, making this a cancer that is usually diagnosed in later stages.  Symptoms include, chest pain, fluid built up in the heart and thickening of the hearts protective lining.  Irregular heartbeats, murmurs, cough fatigue and night sweats are also other symptoms.?

Mesothelioma Cancer Tests

How is Mesothelioma diagnosed?

There are several test and procedures that are used in order to reach a complete diagnosis of mesothelioma which includes:

  • Tumor markers/blood test
  • Immunohistochemistry or IHC
  • CT/CAT Scan
  • MRI
  • PET scan
  • Pleuroscopy

Stages of Mesothelioma Cancer

What is the natural history of Mesothelioma?

Stages are used to assess the level of mesothelioma in the body.  There are 4 staging systems used to assess the cancer spread and 4 stages.  The diagnosing systems include Butchart, TNM, and the Bringham systems.  The 4 stages of diagnosing the cancer include:

Stage 1:  This localized cancer affects a very limited area with no tracers on other organs or tissue in the body and lymph nodes are not affected.  At this stage the tumor is usually restricted to one side of the organs protective lining; is and may be removed with surgery. 

Stage 2:  The cancer tumors are larger and may affect the lymph nodes.  The cancer however may have spread to both sides of the organs protective lining, making surgery more difficult. 

Stage3:  Usually in this stage the cancer has invaded the larger region or the whole region of the organ lining and the lining of other organs that are joined.   Surgery is usually ruled out at this stage.

Stage 4:  In this stage the cancer has usually spread far beyond the origin of the tumor.  This stage usually incudes other distant organs being affected and may even have spread to the blood, spine, brain, thyroid, prostate or bone cells.

Types of Treatment for Mesothelioma Cancer

What are the treatment options for Mesothelioma?

Treatment for patients diagnosed with mesothelioma depends on their prognosis.  An important part of treatment is staging of the cancer.  The four stages of cancer identify how far the mesothelioma cancer has progressed and how to treat it.

Treatment plans usually involve surgery, radiation or chemotherapy, or a combination of these treatments. New and experimental treatments include photodynamic therapies, gene therapy and immunotherapy.

Advanced diagnosis in earlier stages usually means a longer life expectancy.  There are two general types of surgical treatment: curative and palliative.  Curative surgery is performed to seek the removal of the mesothelioma and Palliative procedures are performed to reduce the severity of symptoms.

Chemotherapy drugs, given usually in an intravenous drip, may be used to directly kill the cancer cell.  Chemotherapy is also known to kill healthy cells too, causing patients to be sicker than originally diagnosed.  In later stages, chemotherapy may be used with other treatments to help shrink the tumors.

Radiation is used to manage a tumors growth.  Localized treatment helps shrink tumor size and may also be used in a palliative situation where surgery is not an option.  Radiation is also known to be toxic and can damage DNA.

Alternative mesothelioma cancer treatments such as immunotherapy, uses the practice of manipulating the immune system to help fight the cancer growth.  This new procedure involves alternating the cells in a patient's body in a laboratory and returning them in the infected patient's body to fight the cancer.

Gene therapy is used when the defective gene in the cancer patient is repaired with a modified virus.  The genetic material in the virus attacks the cancer cells.

Photodynamic therapy (PDT) uses light energy to kill the cancer.  In this process, a type of drug is administered to the blood stream that makes cells sensitive to certain wave lengths of light.  Then when the cells are exposed to that light the cancer cells die.  This new type of treatment has shown significant life expectancy when combined with other treatments such as surgery and chemotherapy.?

Side Effects of Mesothelioma Cancer

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