Mesothelioma is a genetic disease caused by asbestos exposure. Genetic not in the heredity sense, but meaning a gene mutation to cells within the body, which is caused by the presence of asbestos fibers. Mesothelioma is considered an aggressive yet rare malignancy (2,300 diagnoses per year) that grows and develops on the protective tissue lining of internal organs. This lining is known as the mesothelium.
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.
What Is Mesothelioma?
Mesothelioma get’s its name for developing on and inside the mesothelium of various organs.
Mesothelium is a thin membrane that forms a protective lining of several body cavities and consists of two layers:
- The inner layer of the mesothelium immediately wraps directly around major organs like the lungs, abdomen, and heart. Hence, deemed the first (inner) layer of protection.
- Finally, the outer mesothelium layer. This second layer forms a fluid sac-like cushion, which surrounds the inner layer.
Therefore, the area between these two layers is considered the “cavity”.
A video titled, “What Is Mesothelioma?”
How Mesothelioma Cancer Develops
Step 1: 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.
Step 2: The Visceral layer is the inner layer that immediately covers the organ. Tiny asbestos fibers can get lodged into this layer.
Step 3: 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.
Step 4: 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.
Step 5: 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.
Cancer Has Metastasized: Mesothelioma Cancer has developed and cancer cells have grown on, in, and around the lining of one lung and has begun to spread to the other lung as well.
What Causes Mesothelioma?
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
Four Types of Mesothelioma
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.
The lining that surrounds the abdomen is called the Peritoneum. Peritoneal is the 2nd most common type of mesothelioma. There are two ways how asbestos fibers reach the abdomen:
- By breathing asbestos-contaminated air, which leads to the asbestos reaching the lungs, then traveling via-lymphatic ducts to the abdominal peritoneal lining.
- By swallowing saliva and/or food that is carrying the asbestos fibers, which takes the asbestos directly to the stomach and intestines.
While this form is significantly less common than pleural, it still accounts for roughly 25% of all diagnoses. Learn more about Peritoneal Mesothelioma.
With the third most common type, the tumors develop in and on the pericardium, which is the specific name of the protective tissue 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 expand and efficiently pump oxygen to the rest of the body because of all the scarring and fluid that is now surrounding the lining of the heart. Learn more about Pericardial Mesothelioma.
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. Learn more about Testicular Mesothelioma.
Mesothelioma Symptoms & Warning Signs
Since we just covered the four types of mesothelioma, it only makes sense to identify them further by their specific symptoms and warning signs. Immediately below, we’ve listed all the general symptoms of this asbestos-related cancer. In addition, we will go a little more in-depth and talk about the symptoms of each specific type of mesothelioma.
If you have ever been exposed to asbestos and experience any of the following warning signs, please 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
Pleural Mesothelioma Symptoms
- 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
Peritoneal Mesothelioma Symptoms
- An emergence of a strange abdominal pain
- A noticeable swelling in the abdominal region due to build-up of body fluids
- 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
These two other types of mesothelioma are actually quite rare in their occurrence compared to pleural and peritoneal. As a result, their symptoms and signs are relatively unclear. Furthermore, mesothelioma is rare in its self. Nonetheless, no matter the case, symptoms are usually always associated with pain, fluid build up, and inflammation in the area of where the cancer is developing.
For example, pericardial mesothelioma attacks the tissue linings that surround the heart. As a result, the symptoms for pericardial cancer are chest pains, heart palpitations, and breathing difficulties.
The same goes for testicular mesothelioma. Warning signs are often associated with a swelling, lump, or a mass in, on, or around the testicles. Furthermore, this is perhaps the most notable warnings sign because its the only type that you can actually feel a lump developing with your hands.
The staging of mesothelioma is used be doctors understand the severity of the cancer. Furthermore, it helps the doctors communicate between each other so there is an equal overall understanding. Because mesothelioma symptoms are often misdiagnosed for other illnessess, this type of cancer is often discovered when it has reached the more advanced stages. This makes treatment very difficult and the prognosis is often not favorable.
Evaluating the stage of the cancer helps doctors gauge the potential danger it presents to the patient. It also helps doctors answer critical questions like:
- Are the tumors growing?
- How big are the tumors?
- Where is the cancer centralized?
- Is the cancer metastasizing (growing and spreading) slowly or at a fast pace?
- If so, how far has the cancer spread throughout the body?
Using the answers to the questions above allow the mesothelioma specialists to determine the stage, it aids in creating the best possible treatment plan, and it also allows for a more accurate life expectancy prediction.
STAGE 1 Mesothelioma
This is the stage with the highest rate of survival because most of or all treatment options are available. STAGE 1a: Mesothelioma cells are discovered in the external lining of the pleura that is “parietal pleura” on one side of the chest. STAGE 1b: Mesothelioma cells are discovered in the internal lining of the visceral pleura. These cells are only on one side of the chest implying that cancer has not spread from one lung to the other.
STAGE 2 Mesothelioma
In this stage, patients still have a good chance of survival but cancer has begun to spread to both linings of the pleura. As a result of the cancer cells multiplying, tumors grow larger while fluid begins to build up in the pleura. What’s especially relevant is that most of all the treatment options are still available at this stage.
STAGE 3 Mesothelioma
When mesothelioma is diagnosed in this stage, the cancer has spread considerably. To the point where surgery and other curative treatments are not really an option anymore. Specialists administer palliative forms of treatment, which is used to treat pain, reduce symptoms, and improve prognosis.
STAGE 4 Mesothelioma
Finally, the stage that is considered the worst possible diagnosis a patient could receive; Stage 4. Treatment options are very limited, cancer has spread to several areas of the body and it is affecting multiple organs including lymph nodes. The average life expectancy at this stage is under 12 months.
Mesothelioma Treatment Options
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 mesothelioma was diagnosed. Furthermore, 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. Mesothelioma has NOT spread significantly. Hence, 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)
- Or when combining any of the above, this treatment approach is known as multimodal therapy
#2. Cancer has already spread significantly throughout the body:
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.
Four Standard Mesothelioma Treatments
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.
Surgery is usually the general applicable treatment option when dealing with mesothelioma, irrespective of the stage. This option involves the removal of the tumor growth from the affected areas, so that only healthy cells remain.
This treatment is most effective in the early stages of mesothelioma. As the infection progresses into the latter and more chronic stages, the purpose of surgery will just be to remove as much of the cancer cells as possible, but a total eradication would be impossible.
Chemotherapy is another common procedure. It simply involves the use of specialized cancer drugs (that are specially designed to kill cancer cells) to treat cancer. Chemotherapy can be used in tandem with surgery (most effective after surgery).
Also, this treatment has proven effective in reducing the rate of multiplication of cancer cells, even when surgery is not advised. It also helps in relieving symptoms in advanced cases, even those that surgery cannot help.
This involves the sending of high energy rays from outside the body to the affected individual’s body in order to kill the cancer cells on site. Though radiation therapy may be advantageous, especially in relieving pain in advanced cases, it can also come with a number of side effects.
The commonest side effects are fatigue, tiredness, stomach upsets, and skin reactions. However, these symptoms do not last long and soon go away after the completion of the procedure.
Multimodal therapy uses a combination of several different treatments in order to fight cancer. These include the three previously listed; surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy.
Studies have shown that this type of approach to therapy increases life expectancy exponentially, it improves the quality of life of the patient, and it also has shown to increase the odds for a patient’s full recovery.
While the traditional medicines listed above are the most common, new forms of treatments have begun to surface and have been showing very promising results even though they are still in clinical trials. These experimental treatments include immunotherapy, virotherapy, gene therapy, and photodynamic therapy.
Clinical Trials For Mesothelioma
Experimental studies that are carried out with the hope of finding a cure for cancer, in general, are called “cancer trials”. When these proposed treatments pass a number of simulations and vigorous tests, they are then usually experimented on animals. If the experimental treatment shows positive results in animals, then is pronounced safe, it will probably be approved for human testing. In conclusion, this whole process is called, “clinical trials“.
Clinical trials are usually recommended for patients who have already tried the conventional mesothelioma treatment options but have failed to improve. With families and patients feeling as though they have “nothing to lose,” they tend to try out the proposed treatments. In some cases, these experimental treatments work EXTREMELY well, however, that is not always the story. Some patients fail to respond positively to these types of treatments and can even deteriorate the patient’s condition.
These trials produce different results and these results are based on a number of factors. Click to learn more about clinical trials.
GET HELP & SURVIVE MESOTHELIOMADoctors & Specialists - Treatment Centers - Law Firms
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
It always comes down to the question, “what hospital should we go to?” And it can become a very daunting task to try and pick the best one especially when it comes to treating a rare form of cancer like mesothelioma. While there are plenty of hospitals in the world that deal with the treatment of cancer, it’d be best to find a facility that has mesothelioma specialists on staff, and those staff members should have experience in treating mesothelioma.
Here are a few guidelines to help identify the ideal mesothelioma treatment center:
- Qualified Staff
- Range of Treatment Options
- Equipment & Facility
With those in mind, follow the button to visit 10 of the best mesothelioma treatment centers in the United States.
What To Know About Mesothelioma Law Firms
When to seek litigation? Exposure to asbestos does not have immediate effects, and the symptoms may only become evident 10, 20, to 50 years after exposure. To answer the question directly, seeking litigation should come immediately after finding a mesothelioma doctor or specialist.
Well, which is a good law firm? There are hundreds of them… When you are looking for a law firm to represent you, there are a couple of qualities to look for:
- Specialty – Most law firms try to diversify their practice, and while this is good for their business, it is not the best business model for their clients.Quick hint: Immediately upon visiting a Law Firm’s website, if their home page doesn’t state in plain sight that they specialize in Mesothelioma or Asbestos related cases, they are probably not a well-established or known law group.
- Experience and reputation – Just like every other type of case, nothing replaces true experience in order to ensure the best results – a speedy case and sufficient compensation. You will be able to determine an experienced law firm by the number of clients they represent and also how many cases regarding mesothelioma they have settled in the past.
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