Did you know in the US there are nearly 3,000 diagnosed cases of mesothelioma annually? A mesothelioma is a form of cancer that occurs in the thin layer of tissue. It covers the majority of your internal organs. Mesothelioma is a chronic type of cancer. Treatment of mesothelioma is available but for most of the people, the cure is not possible.
Usually, doctors divide the mesothelioma into different types. This depends on what part of the mesothelium is affected. In most cases, mesothelioma affects the tissue that cover the lungs. This form is known as pleural mesothelioma. Some other types of mesothelioma affect the tissue in the abdomen, around the heart and testicles.
This article highlights the causes, symptoms, stages and treatments of mesothelioma.
Types of Mesothelioma
There are 2 ways through which the type of mesothelioma can be discovered. The first way is by finding the location of the tumor. The second way is by categorizing by cell structure cancer may have. The most commonly used it the way is by the location where it develops. Mesothelioma develops in the lining if the organs and is found in 3 areas.
This is the most common type of mesothelioma which is found near the lungs. This is caused by the inhalation of fibers of asbestos.
Another type of mesothelioma is caused by swallowing the asbestos fibers. These fibers can be trapped in the lining of the abdomen.
In this, the fibers of asbestos can get lodged in the pericardium. It is the lining of the heart cavity. Pericardial mesothelioma is the rarest type of mesothelioma.
Causes of Mesothelioma
There was a time when Mesothelioma was a rare cancer. But in recent times it is becoming more common. Men are prone to mesothelioma as they have been exposed to asbestos at work. According to experts, asbestos is the cause in most cases of pleural mesothelioma. The worker is at greater risk of having this cancer. If they are exposed to large amounts of asbestos from an early age.
What is Asbestos?
Asbestos is a material that is heat and fire resistant. Previously, asbestos was widely used in the
- Building industry
- Power stations
- Motor industry
How Asbestos Causes Mesothelioma?
Asbestos consists of tiny fibers that a person can easily breathe in when comes in contact. The fibers travel to the linings that cover lungs, abdomen, and heart. These fibers irritate the pleura and may cause biological changes which may cause inflammation and genetic changes. This leads to the growth of cancer. If some fibers are coughed up and swallowed, it might cause peritoneal mesothelioma.
According to a research, family of people exposed to asbestos has greater risk of developing it too. The fibers of asbestos can be carried home through clothes.
It was reported that people who come in contact with Simian Virus 40 (SV40) and are exposed to asbestos as well. They are likely to develop mesothelioma. It can be said that SV40 is a co-factor in causing mesothelioma. But it is not confirmed yet.
Symptoms of Mesothelioma
The symptoms of the mesothelioma are often associated with other diseases. This is why it is difficult to diagnose. Some of the common symptoms are:
- Weight Loss
- Nausea or vomiting
- Effusion in the lungs or abdomen
- Chest pain
- Trouble breathing
- Abdominal pain
- Abdominal swelling
Stages of Mesothelioma
The mesothelioma cells are found in the pleural surrounding the lung on one side of the chest. Moreover, it can further be divided into 2 stages. First, the mesothelioma cells found on the outer layer of the pleural, on one side. Second, mesothelioma cells found in the inner layer of the pleural.
In this stage, the mesothelioma cells have spread to both the layers of the pleural on one side of the body. It might have spread into the diaphragm muscle or the lung tissue.
The mesothelioma cells have spread to the chest wall or covering of the heart. But it removable through surgery. Another possibility is that the tumor has spread to the lymph nodes.
This is the last stage of mesothelioma which is not curable. This is because the mesothelioma has:
- Spread to different parts of the chest wall.
- Have grown through the diaphragm into the peritoneum.
- Has spread to other parts of the body.
- Has spread to the lymph nodes on the other side of the chest.
- Spread to the chest organs.
The doctors usually use Tumor, Lymph nodes and metastasis (TNM system) to diagnose mesothelioma.
Treatment of Mesothelioma
After diagnosing the stage of mesothelioma, the next step is to the treatment options. Though there is no cure for mesothelioma but several therapies are available. In some cases, the treatments can improve the prognosis extending their lives significantly.
The patients with an early stage, surgery can be performed. Surgery may include removing the mesothelial lining, lymph nodes or part of the lung.
Chemotherapy drugs work by attacking the fast-growing cells of cancer. It is often used in combination with surgery. Chemotherapy helps in removing any mesothelioma cells that was unable to be removed.
Radiation therapy is used in shrinking the tumor that makes it easy to be removed by surgery. Radiation can be delivered using an internal or external source. It depends on the location of the tumor.
The stage 4 mesothelioma cannot be cured. This is the reason the treatment is based on relieving pain.
Insurance and Settlement
If a person is exposed to asbestos and is diagnosed with mesothelioma is eligible for financial compensation. The compensation will be provided by the asbestos manufacturers. The patient of mesothelioma may receive compensation for medical bills and any expense related to it.
Furthermore, most of the cases are settled before reaching the courtroom. The settlement amounts are often linked with the medical bills and mental and psychical distress. The exact settlement amount is private and claimants are bound by the confidentiality agreements.
Overall, mesothelioma is becoming a common type of cancer that must be treated as soon as possible.