Mesothelioma is an asbestos-related cancer that is extremely difficult to diagnose and treat. It usually takes mesothelioma 20-50 years to start showing it’s symptoms. Doctors diagnose mesothelioma based on the location of the tumor within the body; lungs, abdomen, heart, and testicles. There are four types of mesothelioma:

 

  • Pleural
  • Peritoneal
  • Pericardial
  • Testicular

Defined as an asbestos-related cancer of the mesothelium in the lungs. It accounts for 3 out of 4 (75%) mesothelioma diagnoses because most asbestos fibers are inhaled, which lodges it into the lining of the lungs.  Pleural mesothelioma begin in cells that line the sacs of the chest (pleura).  Once the cancer invades this outer lining of the internal chest wall and lungs, it becomes known as pleural mesothelioma.

The abdominal cavity is lined with mesothelial cells that aid in protecting the organs. An MRI or CT of the abdomen often shows thickening of the lining and small nodules indicating a tumor may be present. Peritoneal Mesothelioma accounts for approximately 20-25% of cases. Asbestos can travel to the abdomen in one of two ways. 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. The second pathway is by swallowing saliva and/or food that is carrying the fibers, which takes the asbestos directly to the stomach and intestines.

The least common type of mesothelioma is pericardial mesothelioma.  This is diagnosed when the asbestos-related cancer invades the fluid sac lining that surrounds the heart (pericardium).  Pericardial mesothelioma usually occurs when the cancer spreads from the lining of the lungs (pleural mesothelioma) to the lining of the heart.  As the cancer progresses, 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.

Mesothelioma of the tunica vaginalis, also known as testicular mesothelioma, is the rarest form of mesothelioma. It makes up less than one percent of 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 mesothelioma cases 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.

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