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Pleural Mesothelioma


Pleural mesothelioma is the most prevalent form of mesothelioma, accounting for approximately 80% of all asbestos-related disease. The pleura, or the lining of the lungs becomes affected when asbestos particles are inhaled. As the lungs try to expel these particles, the small fibers become embedded in the lungs creating chronic inflammation. Eventually, as more fibers are inhaled and the lungs become more inflamed cancer cells and tumors develop.

As the disease advances, tumors expand throughout the mesothelial tissue, causing the lungs to lose their elasticity and later impair their ability to function entirely, leaving patients unable to breathe. Pleural effusion may also occur, which causes the chest cavity to fill with fluid and inhibit the smooth movement of the lungs and other organs. Additionally, the cancerous cells frequently metastasize, or move to other parts of the body through the blood and/ or lymph glands, causing the cancer to spread uncontrollably throughout the body.

Because mesothelioma has such a long latency period, it is frequently not diagnosed or misdiagnosed due to the elusive nature of its symptoms. Oftentimes symptoms of mesothelioma are dormant for decades before emerging, causing those affected to quickly deteriorate as the cancer rapidly progresses.

Because pleural mesothelioma typically is not diagnosed until symptoms of the disease are present, patients with this devastating form of cancer are usually not projected to survive for more than one year. However, as medical knowledge of the disease increases, early detection has become key in increasing the life expectancy of those who have been exposed to asbestos.

Typically the first symptom of pleural mesothelioma is chest pain, which is usually the result of the lung tumors and pleural effusion. Over half of patients complain of pain in the lower back or at the side of the chest. Unfortunately this is usually an indication that cancer has already metastasized, or spread to other organs in the body. Other symptoms of pleural mesothelioma include:

  • Chest pains
  • cough
  • shortness of breath
  • dyspnea
  • vomiting
  • weight loss

As public knowledge of asbestos and mesothelioma increases, early detection of the disease has become easier, giving patients more treatment options and a longer life expectancy. If you or a loved one may have been exposed to asbestos, it is imperative to be examined regularly for the disease to aid in early detection. More information, including a list of treatment facilities, is available upon request.

When mesothelioma is thought to be present in a patient, a biopsy should be scheduled to confirm the nature of the abnormal tissue. If a patient is suffering from mesothelioma, treatment options are typically measured depending on the location of the tumor, its size, and the type of cancer cell involved as well as the general response of these cancer cells to treatment.

It�s important to note that while there is no cure for pleural mesothelioma, certain treatments can combat the disease to extend life expectancy and quality of life. These treatments include chemotherapy, surgery, drug therapies, radiation therapy and intra-operative photodynamic therapy. Additionally, researchers are currently studying new forms of treatment which may be the next step to finding a cure for this devastating disease.

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Peritoneal Mesothelioma
Peritoneal mesothelioma is a form of asbestos cancer that affects the peritoneum, or the thin membrane that lines the abdomen and the pelvic cavity.
Approximately, 20% of reported mesothelioma cases are diagnosed to be peritoneal mesothelioma. While this type of mesothelioma is still associated with exposure to asbestos, this cancer is the result of asbestos dust and particles which have been swallowed, unlike pleural mesothelioma, which is caused by the inhalation of particles. The particles are either swallowed directly, or travel through the trachea to the intestinal tract in mucus and finally become lodged in the peritoneum.
There are two types of peritoneal mesothelioma: benign and malignant. Benign mesothelioma, like most other cancers, is a non-cancerous tumor which can typically be removed through surgery. It is usually associated with some uncomfortable symptoms but is rarely life-threatening. On the other hand, malignant peritoneal mesothelioma is an extremely dangerous illness which is considered by medical professionals typically to be fatal. Additionally, peritoneal mesothelioma can be almost impossible to detect early unless through an abdominal or CT scan for other purposes. Because the symptoms often don�t show up for decades after exposure, when symptoms are present, the patient has usually already reached the advanced stages of peritoneal mesothelioma.
Symptoms include:
• weight loss,
• abdominal pain,
• fever,
• pain,
• constipation,
• swelling,
• weakness,
• loss of appetite.
Additionally, the abdomen frequently appears distended due to the fluid build-up.
Peritoneal mesothelioma has no known cure, and typically the life expectancy of those with peritoneal mesothelioma is shorter than those with other forms of mesothelioma. However, there are some treatments that can help fight the disease. The success of these treatments depends on the stage of the cancer when diagnosed, the overall well being of the patient, the size and location of the tumors and the wishes of the patient. However, it�s rare for this cancer to be diagnosed early, and as a result there is usually a very slight chance of totally treating cancerous cells.
The most common methodology for treating this cancer is chemotherapy and other drug-related treatments. Additionally, radiation and surgery are options your physician may consider to treat the cancer, depending on the stage of the cancer. It is important for all patients to explore every possible treatment option when deciding upon a plausible course for their treatment. More information is available upon request to aid you in your decision for your course of treatment.
Pericardial Mesothelioma
Less than 10% of reported cases of mesothelioma are diagnosed to be pericardial mesothelioma, making it the rarest of the three types of asbestos cancers. The pericardium is the sac of fibrous tissue that covers the heart and the bases of the main blood vessels. As with other types of mesothelioma, the only known cause is exposure to asbestos fibers or dust. While exposure to asbestos is never good, continued exposure or extended exposure to asbestos fibers make the chances of developing the disease much greater.
Scientists are still researching exactly how the particles make their way to the pericardium, yet it is believed that the particles are carried into the lungs where they are further broken down and enter the circulation system. Once entering the heart, the particles lodge in the pericardium, causing the immune system to respond by attempting to expel the particles. Irritation and abnormal growth of the cells then occurs as with any foreign substance, later leading to the development of tumors. Again, like the other types of mesothelioma, the lengthy latency period of pericardial mesothelioma makes early detection difficult. Unfortunately the disease continues to advance even before symptoms are present, so when the patient is finally diagnosed with mesothelioma he or she is already in the advanced stages of cancer.
Symptoms of pericardial mesothelioma include:
• shortness of breath,
• pain,
• chest pains,
• vomiting,
• weight loss,
• fever,
• palpitations,
• intense coughing.
Pericardial mesothelioma is especially difficult to diagnose because its symptoms are so ambiguous. A successful and prompt diagnosis requires that the patient undergo either a CAT scan or an MRI as soon as symptoms become present. The warning signs of mesothelioma should never be ignored and it�s important when seeing the family physician to mention any possible asbestos exposure in the past. More information regarding what to discuss with your physician is available upon request if you are concerned you are suffering from any form of asbestos related disease. If you or a loved one has been exposed to asbestos, you should be screened regularly to aid in early detection of the disease.
While it�s almost impossible to successfully treat this form of cancer, treatment options are available for patients that will help improve their quality of life and keep them comfortable, as there is no known cure for this disease. Treatments, such as chemotherapy, surgery, radiation, and other new therapies can help patients and improve their quality of life. It is important to remember that early detection is key to successful treatment.
Common Symptoms of Mesothelioma
Mesothelioma is undoubtedly the deadliest form of cancer, and is considered by most physicians and medical professionals to be fatal due to the difficulty in diagnosing the cancer in time for any treatment to be effective. In fact, one study showed that on average, patients live only 242 days after diagnosis. Because the typical symptoms of mesothelioma are oftentimes indications of more common, less serious conditions, it is important for those who may have been exposed to asbestos to mention their exposure to their physician so that the physician can take the proper steps to ensure that the patient is not suffering from mesothelioma. If you or a loved one may have been exposed to asbestos, more information is available to aid you in taking the proper steps to ensure your health.
Mesothelioma is caused by exposure to asbestos dust or particles. From the time of exposure it can take twenty to fifty years before the symptoms manifest. Generally, the disease begins within the mesothelium (the lining of the body that protects the organs such as the lungs, the heart and parts of the abdomen) and can easily spread to the other parts of the body.
There are three different types of mesothelioma and each has different symptoms.
• Pleural mesothelioma � attacks the lining and the cavity of the lungs. Symptoms, as the disease advances, include: chest pain as the lungs fill with fluid along with shortness of breath, a tightening sensation in the chest, persist coughing, rasping, difficulty in swallowing, coughing of blood, fever and weight loss. As tumor masses expand, the individual may experience a pneumothorax, or collapse of the lung. Typically, pleural tumors are only found on one side of the lungs.
• Peritoneal mesothelioma � attacks the areas in the stomach and abdomen of a person. This type of mesothelioma is very painful as the tumors press on the wall of the abdomen. Symptoms include: stomach pains and swelling in the abdomen, which is caused by a buildup of fluid in the abdomen known as ascites, and may involve pain as severe as a ruptured appendix. As the disease advances, intense pain in the chest, difficulty breathing, anemia, abnormal clots in the blood, rapid weight loss (called cachexia), constipation, fever and vomiting, pain, trouble swallowing, and swelling of the neck and face.
• Pericardial mesothelioma � attacks the lining to the heart and surrounding area. This is the rarest form of mesothelioma. Symptoms includes severe chest pains, palpitations, labored breathing and coughing. Correctly diagnosing pericardial mesothelioma is difficult, as a result of the ambiguous nature of its symptoms.
In all types of severe mesothelioma, the patient may experience blood clots in the veins, which may lead to thrombophlebitis, disseminated intravascular coagulation, a serious disorder causing internal bleeding within the body organs, pleural effusion, blood clots in the arteries of the lungs, ascites, and jaudice. Unlike other forms of cancer, mesothelioma does not usually spread to the adrenal glands, the blood, or the brain.
The warning signs of mesothelioma should never be ignored and again, it�s important when seeing a family physician to mention any possible asbestos exposure in the past to aid in early detection of the disease.
How Does One Get Mesothelioma?
Unlike other cancers which are thought to be genetic, mesothelioma is not contagious, nor can it be inherited through genetics. Mesothelioma is caused by exposure to asbestos. Asbestos, a naturally occurring group of strong and elastic minerals that has been mined throughout history for its fire retardant properties . While asbestos are banned in multiple countries, many countries in the world still mine it today, regardless of the dangers associated with asbestos exposure. Asbestos is made of multiple tiny fibers that can be spun and woven together, and is not only extremely resistant to chemicals and heat, it is extremely strong and flexible.
Most people who develop mesothelioma later in life previously worked on jobs where they were exposed to asbestos dust and fibers without protection, or they were in close contact with those who worked with asbestos. Secondary exposure, or indirect exposure is less common than primary exposure, but there have been many documented cases of the family members of asbestos workers who developed the terrible disease from fibers which were carried on the clothes of the worker. Additionally, one should always be careful when working on home or building restoration projects, as older buildings and houses frequently used asbestos for insulation and in other products. In fact, before the dangers of asbestos were known, asbestos were mined and used in countless products, including brake pads, gaskets, electric ovens and hotplate wiring, and even in cement to increase its strength.
When the small asbestos particles are disturbed and released into the air they can remain airborne for extended periods of time. When inhaled these particles become lodged in a person�s lungs (or possibly swallowed and end up in the digestive system and inflame the lining of the abdomen). The lungs then become inflamed, leading to chronic infection and mesothelioma.
There are three basic types of asbestos: blue, white, and brown. White asbestos, or chrysotile, is mined from serpentine rocks. Chrysotile asbestos is most commonly used industrially, and is flexible enough to be woven into fabric. As a matter of fact, it is rumored that chrysotile asbestos were woven into Charlemagne�s tablecloth, which he reportedly threw into his fire after meals in order to clean the cloth. While white asbestos are harmful, there is evidence that it is the least harmful form of asbestos. Brown asbestos, or amosite, is highly biohazardous and is mined throughout South Africa. Blue asbestos, or crocidolite is an amphibole from Australia and South Africa. It is the most dangerous type of asbestos as it is the most fibrous form of the mineral.
Anyone that worked with asbestos or was involved in the mining of asbestos or production of asbestos products was at risk of exposure and should be visiting their doctor regularly to aid in early detection of the disease. Family members and friends who were indirectly exposed to asbestos particles should also heed caution and routinely visit their physician. As mesothelioma cancer doesn�t occur until twenty or thirty years after the initial exposure it makes it hard to diagnose an exact time of exposure. It is estimated that by the year 2015, approximately 3000 people will have been diagnosed with this disease every year.


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