Mesothelium is the thin layer of tissue that covers most of the internal organs, including the heart, lungs, and stomach. When that tissue has a tumor, it is referred to as mesothelioma. Mesothelioma is rare, but serious. The tumor can be malignant or benign, but it can be harmful either way. In cases of malignant mesothelioma, the cancer typically spreads rapidly, making effective treatment difficult.
Causes of Mesothelioma
Scientists and doctors are unsure of the exact cause of mesothelioma, but patients that were exposed to asbestos seem to have a greater risk of developing the rare condition. Any contact with asbestos, even washing the clothes of someone that has worked with asbestos can increase the risk of development of mesothelioma. Like any tumor, development of mesothelioma is thought to be due to a combination of environment, genetics, and lifestyle choices. The tumor develops after a mutation occurs in a cell. The cell then begins to multiply, and the tumor grows.
Types of Mesothelioma
Mesothelioma is classified by the part of the body that is affected by it. Mesothelioma most commonly affects the lungs, in which case it is called pleural mesothelioma or pleural malignant mesothelioma if it is cancerous. If mesothelioma affects the heart, it is called pericardium mesothelioma. If mesothelioma affects the abdominal cavity it is peritoneum mesothelioma, if it affects the sac around the testis it is tunica vaginalis mesothelioma.
Symptoms of Mesothelioma
Symptoms depend on which type of mesothelioma a patient is suffering from. Patients that are affected with pleural mesothelioma may experience painful coughing, trouble breathing, unexplained weight loss, fatty lumps on the chest, and pain around the ribs. Most of these symptoms are also common of lung cancer, which is much more common. Diagnostic tests may be necessary to rule out other types of cancer.
In the case of peritoneal mesothelioma, the patient may experience stomach pain, weight loss, swelling of the abdomen, and fatty lumps in the stomach area. Pericardium mesothelioma may bear similar symptoms to other heart and lung conditions, including chest pain and difficulty breathing. Tunican vaginalis mesothelioma may cause pain in the groin area, or may cause fatty lumps on the testicles.
Diagnosis of Mesothelioma
In order to diagnose mesothelioma, doctors must first detect any abnormalities in the area that is exhibiting symptoms. Abnormalities can usually be spotted by performing an x-ray or CT scan. If a mass is detected through one of these tests, a biopsy may be performed to assess whether the tissue is cancerous. Different procedures may be required to reach different areas of the body.
Biopsy procedures include:
- Laparoscopy-a small incision is made in the abdomen and a camera and small tools are inserted through the incision. Tissue is removed using the small tools
- Laparotomy-the abdomen is opened and tissue is removed from affected area
- Fine-needle aspiration-a small piece of tissue or fluid is removed by inserting a fine needle into the chest or abdomen
- Thoracoscopy- a small incision is made between the ribs and a camera and small tools are inserted. Tissue is removed using the small tools
- Thoracotomy-chest is opened to allow removal o tissue from affected area
After the tissue is removed, doctors will perform tests to determine the whether the tissue is cancerous. If mesothelioma is confirmed, doctors will perform tests to determine what stage of the cancer the patient is suffering from. In addition to x-rays and CT scans, MRIs and PET scans may be helpful in determining the stage.
Treatment of Mesothelioma
There are four stages of mesothelioma. Patients are much more likely to respond to treatment if mesothelioma is caught in stage I, but mesothelioma often goes undetected until the condition has worsened. When mesothelioma has reached stage IV, the cancer has spread through many structures of the body. Mesothelioma is a very aggressive type of cancer, and it is rare that the disease is cured. Treatment options may help ease symptoms or send the cancer into remission, however.
Treatment options include:
- Surgery to remove tumors, fluid, affected lung, or cancerous tissue
- Radiation therapy to lessen symptoms and halt growth and spread of tumors
- Chemotherapy to kill cancerous cells using chemicals
- Clinical trials use experimental drugs and therapies in an attempt to cure mesothelioma
Orlando Mesothelioma Lawyers
If a patient is diagnosed with mesothelioma, the cause is typically asbestos exposure. If the patient was knowingly put in harm’s way by an employer, school, or institution, there may be legal options to help recover medical and other costs associated with a mesothelioma diagnosis. Patients that have been diagnosed with mesothelioma should contact our Orlando Mesothelioma lawyers to discuss the situation. Mesothelioma lawsuits are very common in the United States. Those that have had a loved one pass away as a result of mesothelioma can also benefit from seeking the advice of an attorney.
“Mesothelioma.” Mayo Clinic. Mayo Foundation for Medical education and Research, 13 Jul 2013. Web. 24 Sep 2013. <http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/mesothelioma/DS00779/DSECTION=treatments-and-drugs>.
“Mesothelioma.” MedLine Plus. U.S. National Library of Medicine, 19 Sep 2013. Web. 24 Sep 2013. <http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/mesothelioma.html>.