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.
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:
- 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.
- The outer mesothelium layer forms a sac that surrounds the inner layer.
The area between these two layers is considered the “cavity”.
Deeper Look Into Malignant Mesothelioma
The human lungs.
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.
Here is a picture of the human lungs and we’ve added on the Visceral Layer.
The Visceral layer is the inner layer that immediately covers the organ. Tiny asbestos fibers can get lodged into this layer.
The human lungs, Visceral Layer, and now, the Pleural Cavity.
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.
The human lungs, Visceral Layer, the Pleural Cavity, and now, the Parietal Layer.
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.
The human lungs, Visceral Layer, the Pleural Cavity, theParietal Layer, and now, the Thoracic Wall.
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
The Human Lungs, Visceral Layer, Pleural Cavity, Parietal Layer, Thoracic Wall, and lastly, Mesothelioma Cancer Cells & Tumors.
Cancer has metastasized and mesothelioma has developed all over the lining of the right lung.
Causes of Mesothelium Cancer
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.
Top 20 Common Misspellings
The Four Different Types of 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:
- 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.
- By swallowing saliva and/or food that is carrying the asbestos fibers, which takes the asbestos directly to the stomach and intestines.
Symptoms & Warning Signs
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.
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
- New Drug Hope For Mesothelioma – University of Bradford – https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/03/160314111127.htm
- Brigham and Women’s Hospital – International Mesothelioma Program
- 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.
- What’s New in Malignant Mesothelioma Research and Treatment? https://www.cancer.org/cancer/malignant-mesothelioma/about/new-research.html#written_by
- National Cancer Institute – A Malignant Asbestos-related cancer http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/types/malignantmesothelioma
- 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
- 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
- Dodson, R. and Hammar, S. (2011). Asbestos: Risk Assessment, Epidemiology, and Health Effects. Taylor & Francis: Boca Raton.
- Castleman, B. (2005). Asbestos: Medical and Legal Aspects. Aspen Publishers: New York.
- Mesothelioma: Causes and Symptoms. WebMD. Retrieved From: http://www.webmd.com/lung/mesothelioma-causes-and-symptoms. Retrieved 3/17/16.
- Mesothelioma Symptoms. Mayo Clinic. Retrieved From: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/mesothelioma/DS00779/DSECTION=symptoms. Retrieved on 3/17/16.
- Webster, P. (2005). White Dust Black Death. Trafford: Canada.
- Robinson, B., Musk, A., Lake, R. (2005). Malignant Mesothelioma. The Lancet; 366(9483): 397-408.
- 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
- 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
- Hodgson, JT, Darnton, A. (2000). The qualitative risk of mesothelioma and lung cancer in relation to asbestos exposure. Ann Occup Hyg; 44: 565-601. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11108782
- 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
You Can Ask Us Anything.
You Can Ask Us Anything.