According to some reports, doctors diagnose an estimated 3,000 cases of mesothelioma annually in the U.S. The majority of those are traced to job-related exposures to asbestos. Most people have the pleural type, which forms on the lining of the lungs, but cancer can also form around the lining of the abdomen or heart. We are going to look at some FAQs of mesothelioma cancer.
Table of Contents
What is Mesothelioma?
What Causes Mesothelioma Cancer?
Asbestos can cause health complications when work duties or other activities disturb asbestos-containing materials and release fibres into the air. When we inhale or swallow these microscopic fibres, our bodies struggle to get rid of them. Over the decades, the trapped fibres trigger biological changes that can cause inflammation, scarring and genetic damage that sometimes leads to cancer. The lengthy gap between asbestos exposure and diagnosis is called the latency period.
Asbestos fibres most often become trapped in the lining of the lungs, called the pleura. They also can collect in the lining of the abdominal cavity (peritoneum) or heart (pericardium). Once fibres cause biological damage, the stage is set for the decades-long latency period for the development of malignant mesothelioma.
What Are The Symptoms?
The symptoms associated with mesothelioma can often look like conditions related to other diseases, which makes it very difficult to diagnose. Some common ones are:
- Trouble breathing or chest pain
- Effusion (fluid buildup) in the lungs or abdomen
- Anemia (especially in women)
- Nausea / vomiting
- Loss of weight
Types of Mesothelioma
There are two ways to categorize the type of mesothelioma a person has. The first is by where the tumors are found in the body (lungs, abdomen, or heart), and the second is by the type of cell structure the cancer has (epithelioid, sarcomatoid, or biphasic).
Mesothelioma is most commonly classified by the location in the body where it develops. Specifically, the cancer forms in the lining of certain organs or spaces within the body, known as the mesothelium. Mesothelioma typically develops in one of three specific areas.
The most common type, pleural mesothelioma is caused by the inhalation of asbestos fibers.
Inhaled or swallowed asbestos fibers can become trapped in lining of the abdomen (the peritoneum).
In rare cases, asbestos fibres can get lodged in the pericardium, the lining around the heart cavity.
Mesothelioma can also be characterized by the type of cell that makes up the tumours. The cell type is determined through a process known as histology, which is a microscopic inspection of the tissue acquired through a biopsy.
The most common cell type, epithelioid mesothelioma has elongated tumour cells that are all of a similar shape and size.
Less common than other cell types, sarcomatoid mesothelioma is very aggressive and resistant to various forms of treatment.
Biphasic mesothelioma consists of a mixture of epithelioid and sarcomatoid cells and shows characteristics of both
Other Cell Types
Other cell type variations exist, such as demoplastic (a variation of sarcomatoid) and deciduoid (an epithelioid variation).
What Is The Treatment For Mesothelioma?
Once an individual has been diagnosed by a qualified mesothelioma doctor and the disease has been appropriately staged, the next step is to discuss mesothelioma treatment options and to develop a treatment plan. Although no cure for mesothelioma exists, several standard therapies are available. In some cases, these treatments can improve the patient’s prognosis, extending their lives significantly.
For late-stage mesothelioma patients, these treatments may be used palliatively to reduce pain and discomfort caused by the symptoms of mesothelioma.
For patients with an early-stage mesothelioma diagnosis, surgery can be used remove all or most of the tumor(s). Depending on the tumor location, surgery may include removing the mesothelial lining, one or more lymph nodes, or part or all of a lung or other organ.
Chemotherapy drugs work by attacking fast-growing cells, such as cancer cells. Often used in conjunction with surgery, chemotherapy can kill any remaining mesothelioma cells that the surgeon was unable to remove physically.
Through the use of targeted radiation, mesothelioma tumors can often be shrunk, making them easier to be removed through surgery. Depending on the tumor location, the radiation can be delivered using an external or an internal source.
Many treatment plans use an approach known as multimodal therapy, which employs two or more of these treatment methods in combination.
Mesothelioma Cancer Centres