What is Mesothelioma?

A type of cancer caused by inhaling or ingesting asbestos fibers and it gets its name because the cancer grows in the mesothelium which is the lining that surrounds many of the body’s internal organs.  Approximately 3,000 cases are diagnosed each year in the U.S. This type of cancer is more common in older adults rather than young people.

What Causes Mesothelioma?

Correct Answer: Asbestos

Tiny asbestos fibers can cause cancer of the mesothelium if they are inhaled (most common) or ingested. These fibers, if inhaled, will travel to the pleura through small air passages.  As they pass through the mesothelium, they can cause inflammation and scarring which damage the cells’ DNA and those changes result in uncontrolled cell growth. If the fibers are swallowed, they may reach the abdominal lining which causes cancer in the peritoneum.

Mesothelioma Symptoms

It is important to be aware of what type of body changes can signify a potential problem. This asbestos-related cancer is difficult to diagnose and often is not recognized until the disease has reached the later stages. Many people and doctors mistake the warning signs for other common illnesses such as a cold or upper respiratory infection. If you have been exposed to asbestos, don’t wait until your symptoms have a negative impact on your life before you see a physician. The stage of cancer at the time of diagnosis determines life expectancy. It has been reported that about 25% of patients that have complained of dyspnea and chest pain waited up to 6 months before they saw a doctor.
Dr. Meso showing mesothelioma symptoms so he is taking his temperature.

Types of Mesothelioma

Mesothelioma Diagram explaining which organ is affected in pleural mesothelioma.


About 75% of mesothelioma cases begin in cells that line the sacs of the chest, the pleura, which is the outer lining of the internal chest wall and lungs. Because the tissue which covers the heart (pericardium) is close to the pleura, this cancer sometimes spreads to the lining of the heart.

Mesothelioma Diagram explaining which organ is affected in peritoneal mesothelioma.


The lining of the abdominal cavity is called the peritoneum. It contains fluid which aids in keeping the contents of abdomen safe and accounts for approximately 25% of mesothelioma cases. This type of asbestos-related cancer usually does not spread to other parts of the body.

Mesothelioma Diagram explaining which organ is affected in pericardial mesothelioma.


The least common type is pericardial mesothelioma which involves the heart. Cancer invades the sac which surrounds the heart (pericardium). As it progresses, the heart is unable to get oxygen to the body efficiently. This causes a rapid decline in health.

4 Stages of Mesothelioma

Doctors use four primary stages, Stage l, ll, lll, or lV, to determine the severity and extent of the cancer throughout the body. These stages also determine the extent of cancer within the body.  A lower stage number means you have more treatment options and a better chance for long-term survival.

Doctors use these stages to describe the cancer to patients and to one another about how advanced the cancer is, how many tumors there are and how far the cancer has spread within the body. It is an important assessment tool because once the doctor knows the stage of the cancer, he can then develop a table of treatment options where he will be able to determine which treatments are available and which are not. Watch the video or click on the button below to learn more.

The 4 stages of Mesothelioma.

The People Affected by Asbestos the Most

Cancer of the mesothelium has been directly linked due to being exposed of asbestos. Asbestos had been used for almost 100 hundred years in industries such as manufacturing, construction, and shipbuilding. Almost every branch of the Armed Forces used asbestos until the 1970’s. It was used in vehicles, ships and aircrafts because it was highly regarded for its resistance to heat as well as its fire-proofing capabilities.

The group highest at risk are veterans who served their country during the years from 1940 to 1980.  Military Veterans make up almost a third of all legal cases in addition to those who qualify for special benefits from the Veterans Administration.  Watch video to learn more!

Diagnosed With Mesothelioma… What Now?

Prognosis & Life Expectancy
Malignant mesothelioma is a very aggressive disease, and unfortunately, it is usually not noticed until it is very late in either the 3rd or 4th stage.  This results to unfavorable prognoses for everyone around the world that is diagnosed with mesothelioma. Although new innovative treatments are showing to be promising, there still is no cure for mesothelioma.  The best way to start improving your prognosis and life expectancy is to find a doctor that specializes in your particular type of mesothelioma (Pleural, Peritoneal, or Pericardial). Preferably, one with experience in multimodal treatments to start assessing the various treatments available immediately.

Mesothelioma Treatment Options

Once a diagnosis has been made the patient and doctor can begin to discuss the various treatment options. There are several types of treatments available including but not limited to: chemotherapy, radiation therapy, surgery, immunotherapy, a combination of the 4 (multimodal therapy), virotherapy, and clinical trials. While these are the more common treatments, you should always discuss complementary therapies with your physician as well. The treatment received will be decided on factors such as age, overall health, and severity / extent of the cancer.
Dr. Meso trying to decide which mesothelioma treatment option would be the best.

Mesothelioma Doctors & Specialists

If you want to do a search for cancer specific specialists, we recommend starting with, “oncologists.” These doctors are recognized physicians who specialize in the diagnosis, prognosis, and treatment of cancer altogether. When someone dear to you is threatened by this 100% disabling disease, finding a mesothelioma doctor that you can trust is probably at the top of the list. To help jump-start your search and filter through the good and the bad, view our compilation of some of the best cancer physicians in the nation.
Mesothelioma doctor and specialist.

Top 10 Best Mesothelioma Cancer Centers

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