Mesothelioma

Malignant Mesothelioma is an aggressive, rare form of cancer that attacks the tissue lining of internal organs. This protective tissue lining is known as the mesothelium and while the main cause of other various cancers is vaguely understood, this form of cancer is a man-caused cancer, which is directly associated to a person being exposed to asbestos.
Once tiny asbestos fibers have entered the body via esophageal or tracheal pathways, they will become lodged into the protective tissue lining mentioned above. This lodging disrupts natural cell development, which promotes the growth of abnormal cells. Uncontrollable growth and build up of irregular cells are the general cause of all tumors.

Mesothelioma get’s its name for developing on and inside the mesothelium of various organs.

Mesothelium –  A thin membrane that forms a protective lining of several body cavities and consists of two layers:

  1. The inner layer of the mesothelium wraps directly around major organs like the lungs, abdomen, and heart.  This is the first (inner) layer of protection.
  2. The outer mesothelium layer forms a sac that surrounds the inner layer.

The area between these two layers is considered the “cavity”.

A video titled, “What Is Mesothelioma?”

Mesothelioma & The Mesothelium

PICTURED:
The human lungs completely bare. We will add more of its features in the following tabs.

Mesothelioma & Mesothelium Series - Part 1

 

DESCRIPTION:
Malignant mesothelioma of the pleura is a type of cancer which develops from the mesothelial cells that are found within the two protective layers that cover the lungs.

 

PICTURED:
Here is a picture of the human lungs and we’ve added on the Visceral Layer.

Mesothelioma & Mesothelium Series - Part 2

DESCRIPTION:
The Visceral layer is the inner layer that immediately covers the organ. Tiny asbestos fibers can get lodged into this layer.

PICTURED:
The human lungs, Visceral Layer, and now, the Pleural Cavity.

Mesothelioma & Mesothelium Series - Part 3

 

DESCRIPTION:
The Pleural Cavity is located in between the two mesothelium layers. This cavity space acts as a cushion for the lungs. Every time you breathe in, your lungs expand and fill in the cavities empty space. This is also where mesothelial cells are located and the presences of asbestos fibers will begin to start manipulating natural cell growth.

 

PICTURED:
The human lungs, Visceral Layer, the Pleural Cavity, and now, the Parietal Layer.

Mesothelioma & Mesothelium Series - Part 4

DESCRIPTION:
Now we have the second (outer) lay visible.  These are the two pleurae that make up the Pleura: the visceral pleura layer, which covers the actual lung itself; and the parietal pleura layer, which covers the inside of the chest wall.

 

PICTURED:
The human lungs, Visceral Layer, the Pleural Cavity, theParietal Layer, and now, the Thoracic Wall.

Mesothelioma & Mesothelium Series - Part 5

DESCRIPTION:
Here you see our version of a fully featured lungs mesothelium (pleura). The purpose of the pleura is to provide a cushion like, smooth surface for the lungs to expand smoothly within the Pleural cavity. Malignant mesothelioma develops, travels, and spreads from the mesothelial cells of the lungs mesothelium.

 

 

PICTURED:
The human lungs, Visceral Layer, the Pleural Cavity, the Parietal Layer, the Thoracic Wall, and lastly, Mesothelioma Cancer Cells & Tumors.

Malignant Mesothelioma (Pleural) Metastasized

DESCRIPTION:
Mesothelioma has metastasized and has taken over the right lung.

 

Malignant Mesothelioma & Causes

Mesothelioma turns malignant years and years later, typically anywhere between two and five decades after initial asbestos exposure. The reason the latency period (the lengthy time gap between initial asbestos exposure to the diagnosis) is so different is not completely understood, but many mesothelioma specialists agree that the length of time that it takes to develop within the body is based on the amount of asbestos exposure.

Out of all the cases and diagnoses, roughly 75% of all patients were exposed to asbestos because of their occupation. The other 25% were subject to asbestos because of either:

  • second-hand exposure
  • lived near an asbestos production facility
  • asbestos in their homes & schools.

A person can develop malignant cancer of the mesothelium from inhaling asbestos fibers on one single occasion, but from history records of these diagnoses, most cases were found to be that it was caused because of long-term asbestos exposure.

In the following section below we will talk about the four types as briefly mentioned earlier.  The reason we bring that up is because 3 out of 4 cases, patients are diagnosed with pleural mesothelioma.  This is when the asbestos fibers are inhaled and become lodged in the protective lining of the lungs, known as the pleura.

The fibrous asbestos dust can also become trapped in the lining of the abdominal cavity if it is swallowed.  Whether trapped in the pleura or the peritoneum, the cancer cells could metastasize and travel to the lining of the heart, the pericardium.  The presence of asbestos fibers at any of these locations will eventually cause biological damage, which will then cause the uncontrollable growth of mutated  & irregular cells.  This is the development and cause of mesothelioma.
Mesothelioma is hard to pronounce and even harder to spell.  Below are the top ways to misspell “Mesothelioma
Top 20 Common Misspellings

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Mesothelioma Categorized Into Four Types

There are three known and medically accepted types of this asbestos-related cancer with the probability of there being a fourth type. The reason for the “probability” is because it is so rare that there isn’t enough data history to rule it as a direct connection with cancer developing on the mesothelium.
Doctors diagnose mesothelioma based on the location of the tumor within the body; lungs, abdomen, heart, and testicles.
Defined as an asbestos-related cancer of the mesothelium in the lungs. Tumors develop in the pleura which is the specific name of the lining that surrounds the lungs. It accounts for 3 out of 4 (75%) mesothelioma cancer diagnoses because most asbestos fibers are inhaled, which ultimately end up getting lodged into the lining of the lungs.  The development of this particular asbestos-related cancer begins in the cells that line the sacs of the chest (pleura).  Once the cancer cells develop further and invade the outer lining of the internal chest wall and lungs, it becomes known as pleural mesothelioma.

Tumors develop in the peritoneum, which is the name of the lining that surrounds the abdomen. Peritoneal accounts for approximately 20-25% of cases. How it is diagnosed – The abdominal cavity is lined with mesothelial cells that aid in protecting the organs so if an MRI or CT scan shows a thickening of this lining and of the small nodules, this indicates that a tumor may be present.

There are two ways how asbestos fibers reach the abdomen:

  1. It can be inhaled by breathing asbestos-contaminated air, which leads to the asbestos reaching the lungs, then traveling via-lymphatic ducts to the abdominal peritoneal lining.
  2. By swallowing saliva and/or food that is carrying the asbestos fibers, which takes the asbestos directly to the stomach and intestines.
The second to least common type is pericardial mesothelioma.  With this type, tumors develop in the pericardium, which is the specific name of the lining that surrounds the heart. This is diagnosed when cancer cells invade the fluid sac lining that surrounds the heart (pericardium).  This uncommon type usually occurs when the cancer cells spread from the lining of the lungs (pleura) to the lining of the heart.  As the cancer cells progress and multiply, the heart is unable to efficiently produce oxygen to the rest of the body. This is what causes an extreme and rapid decline in health.
Tumors develop in the tunica vaginalis, which is the name of the lining that surrounds the testis and is the rarest form of the four types. It makes up less than one percent of all mesothelioma diagnoses. Normally, mesothelioma develops in the abdomen or chest, however, there have been rare occurrences in which it has developed in the testicles.  As mentioned earlier, it originates in the tissues of the tunica vaginalis and thus far, only about 100 cases have ever been reported.  This is a low number compared to the near 50,000 other asbestosis and asbestos-related cancer cases reported here in the United States alone. The pathway to the testicular region of the body is not yet understood because of the rarity of this disease.

As you just learned above, there are four different types of mesothelioma.  Immediately below, we’ve listed are the general symptoms of this asbestos-related cancer and following the common symptoms, we will go a little more in-depth and talk about the symptoms of each type.  If you have every been exposed to asbestos and experience any of these symptoms, you should contact your physician immediately.

Common Symptoms of Mesothelioma

  • Unexplainable loss of weight.
  • General tiredness or fatigue (even without much labor or work).
  • Blood clotting becomes challenging and problematic.
  • Anemia may surface (low Red Blood Cell count)
  • Fever or excessively high body temperature may set in
  • There may also be recurrent night sweats

 

Symptoms of Pleural Mesothelioma

  • The first and possibly the most prominent symptom is shortness of breath. This is caused by the inability of the lung to expand to its full capacity due to the thickening of its external lining that is brought about by the cancer germs.
  • Another notable symptom is Pleural effusion, which is the build-up of fluids in the chest cavity.
  • Chest pain (particularly under the rib cage) is also another notable symptom.
  • Many patients also experience painful coughs.
  • There may also be strange lumps of tissue found under the skin of the chest.
  • Loss of appetite may also show up.
  • There may also be a profound difficulty in swallowing.

 

Symptoms of Peritoneal Mesothelioma

  • There is an emergence of a strange abdominal pain.
  • There will also be a noticeable swelling in the abdominal region due to build-up of body fluids and this is called
  • There may also be strange lumps of tissue found in the abdomen.
  • Bowel obstruction also results due to the abdominal swelling.
  • Loss of appetite is also common.
  • There may also be constipation or diarrhea.

 

Symptoms of the less common types

The two other types of mesothelioma are actually very rare in their occurrence compared to pleural and peritoneal, so their symptoms and signs are relatively unclear but are usually associated with pain, fluid build up, and inflammation in the area of where the cancer is developing.  In any case, mesothelioma itself is a very rare form of cancer.

For example, pericardial mesothelioma is a form of cancer that attacks the tissue linings that surround the heart, so the symptoms for pericardial cancer are chest pains, heart palpitations, and breathing difficulties.

Testicular mesothelioma is often associated with a swelling, lump, or a mass in, on, or around the testicles. This is perhaps one of the most notable warnings signs because it is the only type that you can actually feel a lump developing with your hands.

Mesothelioma Treatment Options – Traditional Methods

Unfortunately, there is no cure for mesothelioma, but there are several common & traditional treatment options that are available for malignant mesothelioma.  These treatments are known to improve a patient’s prognosis, life expectancy, and ultimately, their quality of life.  The exact form of treatment given/administered depends on the type as well as the stage in which the mesothelioma was diagnosed. But a strong deciding factor of the treatment options available is based on the overall health of the patient. For example, if mesothelioma has not spread significantly, it can be treated with surgery.  Below are two examples.

#1. If mesothelioma has NOT spread significantly, it can be treated with:

  • surgery (to remove the tumors)
  • radiation (to kill any tumors or cells nearby)
  • then chemotherapy (to kill any remaining cancer cells floating within the body).

This combined treatment approach is known as multimodal therapy (view all four options below).

#2. However, if cancer has already spread significantly:

At this point, treatments are administered for palliative purposes, which are aimed to alleviate and eliminate any pain, breathing problems, or any other symptom that could lessen a patient’s life quality. A patient can still undergo chemotherapy and radiation treatments but if mesothelioma is diagnosed in the later stages, usually a major curative surgery is not an option.  The four options below are available to learn more about it, the ways it can be administered, the side effects, and overall expectations of the treatment.

Mesothelioma Doctors & Specialists
If you are looking for a doctor or perhaps searching for a cancer-specific specialist, we recommend starting with, “oncologists.” Oncologists are doctors who are recognized in the medical field as physicians who specialize in the diagnosis, prognosis, and treatment of cancer altogether.  It goes without saying that when someone you love is threatened by a 100% disabling disease like mesothelioma, finding a doctor that you can trust is most likely at the very top of the list. To help you kick-start this search, we’ve compiled some (if not all) of the best-known cancer physicians in the nation.

Top 10 Best Mesothelioma Cancer Centers

Visit Them Now
Last Modified: May 22, 2017 @ 8:01 am
Show Sources

Resources:

  1. New Drug Hope For Mesothelioma – University of Bradford – https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/03/160314111127.htm
  2. Brigham and Women’s Hospital – International Mesothelioma Program
    http://www.brighamandwomens.org/Departments_and_Services/surgery/services/thoracicsurgery/services/meso
  3. Wagner, J.C., Sleggs, C.A., and Marchand, Paul. “Diffuse Pleural Mesothelioma and Asbestos Exposure in the North Western Cape Province.” Department of Thoracic Surgery: University of The Witswatersrand. Johannesburg, South Africa. 1960.
  4. What’s New in Malignant Mesothelioma Research and Treatment? https://www.cancer.org/cancer/malignant-mesothelioma/about/new-research.html#written_by
  5. National Cancer Institute – A Malignant Asbestos-related cancer  http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/types/malignantmesothelioma
  6. National Cancer Institute. (2009, May 1). Asbestos exposure and cancer risk. http://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/causes-prevention/risk/substances/asbestos/asbestos-fact-sheet
  7. Straif, K. (2011, March 17). Update of the Scientific Evidence on Asbestos and Cancer. Retrieved from http://www.who.int/phe/news/events/international_conference/Session2_DrStraif.pdf
  8. Dodson, R. and Hammar, S. (2011). Asbestos: Risk Assessment, Epidemiology, and Health Effects. Taylor & Francis: Boca Raton.
  9. Castleman, B. (2005). Asbestos: Medical and Legal Aspects. Aspen Publishers: New York.
  10. Mesothelioma: Causes and Symptoms. WebMD. Retrieved From: http://www.webmd.com/lung/mesothelioma-causes-and-symptoms. Retrieved 3/17/16.
  11. Mesothelioma Symptoms. Mayo Clinic. Retrieved From: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/mesothelioma/DS00779/DSECTION=symptoms. Retrieved on 3/17/16.
  12. Webster, P. (2005). White Dust Black Death. Trafford: Canada.
  13. Robinson, B., Musk, A., Lake, R. (2005). Malignant Mesothelioma. The Lancet; 366(9483): 397-408.
  14. Yang, H, Rivera, Z, Jube, S, et al. (2010, July 13). Programmed necrosis induced by asbestos in human mesothelial cells causes high-mobility group box 1 protein release and resultant inflammation. PNAS; 107(28): 12611-12616. Retrieved from http://www.pnas.org/content/107/28/12611.full.pdf
  15. Carbone, M, Yang, H. (2012). Molecular pathways: Targeting mechanisms of asbestos and erionite carcinogenesis in mesothelioma. Clin Cancer Res; 18. Retrieved from https://clincancerres.aacrjournals.org/content/18/3/598.full
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  17. Blum, D. (2016, February 9). In Nevada, a controversy in the wind. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2015/02/10/science/a-controversy-in-the-wind.html?_r=0

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