Mesothelioma is a type of cancer originating from the mesothelium. The mesothelium is the thin layer of protective tissue that covers the outer surface of many internal organs such as the abdomen of the heart and the lungs. It is an aggressive form that progresses and spreads rapidly.
The disease is divided into several different types depending on which part of the mesothelium is affected.
– Mesothelioma that occurs in the pleura or lining of the lungs is called pleural mesothelioma. This is the most common form.
– Mesothelioma that occurs in the wall of the abdomen called the peritoneum is called peritoneal mesothelioma. It is another similar form of mesothelioma.
– Mesothelioma that occurs in the protective layer of the heart is called pericardial mesothelioma. This is the rarest type of mesothelioma. It can be seen frequent in men than women. In 2015, approximately 60,000,800 people had the disease and 32,000 deaths were recorded. Only about 9% of those diagnosed live more than five years.
CAUSES OF THIS TYPE OF CANCER
The frequent cause of mesothelioma is exposure to asbestos. Asbestos refers to a group of six types of naturally occurring silicate minerals. Asbestos is composed of fibres that are soft and flexible while being resistant to heat, fire and many chemicals.
Asbestos is used in a wide variety of applications such as insulation, brakes, shingles, flooring and many other products. When asbestos is decomposed, for example during the removal of asbestos insulation, or during the extraction process, dust is created and the fibres may be airborne. They can then be inhaled or swallowed and may be permanently deposited in the lungs or stomach where they cause irritation that leads to mesothelioma. After exposure to asbestos, it can take 20 to 40 years for mesothelioma to develop.
Factors that may increase the risk of mesothelioma include a personal history of asbestos exposure such as those observed in people who mine asbestos, work with asbestos products, manufacture products from asbestos, work in a building containing asbestos, or simply live with an asbestos worker.
– Pleural mesothelioma: shortness of breath – involuntary weight loss – cough – chest pain – pain below the rib cage – fatigue.
In severe cases: pneumothorax-pulmonary tumefaction- swelling under the skin of the chest.
– Peritoneal mesothelioma: abdominal swelling-pain in the abdomen- weight loss- fever- night sweats- little appetite- constipation-vomiting.
In cases where the cancer has spread to other parts of the body: swallowing disorders-swelling of the neck and face.
– Pericardial mesothelioma: shortness of breath – low blood pressure – chest pain – extreme fatigue – heart palpitations.
The diagnosis is suspected through CT imaging but the biopsy is used for confirmation. The doctor will review your medical history and perform a physical examination to check for lumps or any unusual signs, followed by a chest X-ray and lung function tests. A CT scan or MRI is also used to check for abnormalities. A biopsy may be used to confirm the diagnosis.
The type of biopsy depends on where the symptoms are located. Options include fine needle aspiration, thoracoscopy, laparoscopy, thoracotomy and laparotomy. Diagnosis will verify the presence of cancer and the extent of its spread. The stage of the cancer is between stage 1 and stage 4.
Stage 1 mesothelioma means that the cancer is confined to the mesothelium and has not spread. In stage 4, the mesothelioma has spread around the chest and to different organs.
Treatment options depend on the location, stage, age and general health of the patient. For most people, there is no cure for cancer, as it is usually diagnosed at an advanced stage when it cannot be removed surgically. In many cases, the only option left is to try to control the cancer to make you more comfortable.
Treatment options may include surgery. When the condition is diagnosed at an early stage, surgeons work to remove the tumour. In cases where it is not possible to remove the tumour, surgery can help reduce symptoms.
– Surgical options may include surgery to reduce fluid accumulation surgery to remove tissue around the lungs (pleurectomy) or tissue lining the abdominal cavity (peritonectomy)
– Radiation therapy that uses powerful beams of energy, such as X-rays, to kill cancer cells.
– Chemotherapy, which uses drugs injected intravenously or taken orally to kill cancer cells.