Malignant mesothelioma (me-zoe-thee-lee-O-muh) is a type of cancer that affects the thin layer of tissue that protects your internal organs (mesothelium).
Mesothelioma is a malignancy that is both aggressive and lethal. Treatments for mesothelioma are available, however for many people with the disease, a cure is not possible.
According to which section of the mesothelium is affected, doctors classify mesothelioma into different types. Mesothelioma is a cancer that attacks the tissue around the lungs (pleura). Pleural mesothelioma is the name for this form of cancer. Other, less common kinds of mesothelioma involve tissue in the belly, around the heart, and around the testicles (peritoneal mesothelioma).
The signs and symptoms of mesothelioma differ depending on the location of the cancer.
Pleural mesothelioma, which affects the tissue that surrounds the lungs, can produce the following signs and symptoms:
- Unusual lumps of tissue under the skin on your chest
- Shortness of breath
- Unexplained weight loss
- Chest pain
- Painful coughing
Peritoneal mesothelioma, which affects tissue in the belly, can produce the following signs and symptoms:
- Unexplained weight loss
- Abdominal swelling
- Abdominal pain
Other forms of mesothelioma
Because other varieties of mesothelioma are so rare, the signs and symptoms of these cancers remain unknown.
Pericardial mesothelioma affects the tissue that surrounds the heart and can produce symptoms such as trouble breathing and chest aches.
Swelling or a tumor on a testicle may be the first sign of tunica vaginalis mesothelioma, which affects the tissue around the testicles.
In general, cancer starts when a cell’s DNA undergoes a series of changes (mutations). The instructions that inform a cell what to do are encoded in DNA. The mutations cause the cell to reproduce and develop out of control. The abnormal cells create a tumor when they clump together.
Although studies have found characteristics that may raise the risk of mesothelioma, it is unclear what causes the first genetic alterations that lead to the disease. Cancers are most likely the result of a complex combination of numerous variables, including hereditary disorders, your environment, your health, and your lifestyle choices.
Asbestos exposure: The primary risk factor for mesothelioma
Asbestos exposure is assumed to be the cause of the majority of mesotheliomas. Asbestos is a natural mineral that can be found in the environment. Asbestos fibers are strong and heat resistant, making them useful in a number of items including insulation, brakes, shingles, flooring, and many more.
Dust is formed when asbestos is broken up, such as during the mining process or when asbestos insulation is removed. If asbestos fibers are inhaled or ingested, they will settle in the lungs or stomach, causing discomfort and perhaps leading to mesothelioma. The exact mechanism by which this occurs is unknown. After asbestos exposure, mesothelioma can take anywhere from 20 to 60 years to develop.
The following factors may raise the risk of mesothelioma:
Asbestos exposure is a personal history. Your chance of developing mesothelioma is considerably raised if you have been directly exposed to asbestos fibers at work or at home.
It’s difficult to live with someone who works with asbestos. Asbestos fibers can be carried home on the skin and clothing of those who have been exposed to it. Long-term exposure to these stray fibers can put individuals in the home at risk of developing mesothelioma. Showering and changing clothing before leaving work can help those who work with high levels of asbestos avoid taking asbestos fibers home.
Mesothelioma runs in the family. You may be at a higher risk of developing mesothelioma if a parent, sibling, or child has the condition.
Chemotherapy is a type of radiation therapy that is used to treat cancer in the chest.
You may have an elevated risk of mesothelioma if you have radiation therapy for a chest malignancy.
Pleural mesothelioma puts strain on the structures in the chest as it progresses.
This can lead to problems such as:
- Breathing problems
- Pain in the chest
- Swallowing problems
- Pressure on the nerves and spinal cord causes pain.
- Pleural effusion is an accumulation of fluid in the chest that can compress the lung adjacent and make breathing difficult.
The majority of mesothelioma patients were exposed to asbestos particles at work. Among those who may come into contact with asbestos fibers are:
- Home remodelers
- Asbestos miners
- Shipyard workers
- Selected military personnel
- Brake mechanics
- Demolition workers
Follow your employer’s safety regulations
Wear protective equipment and follow all safety procedures in your workplace. Before taking a lunch break or heading home, you may be obliged to shower and change out of your work attire. Consult your doctor about any steps you may take to avoid being exposed to asbestos.
Be safe around asbestos in your home
Asbestos may be present in older homes and structures. In many circumstances, removing asbestos poses a greater risk than leaving it alone. Asbestos fibers can become airborne and be inhaled when it is broken apart. Experts skilled to identify asbestos in your house should be consulted. These professionals may conduct air tests in your house to assess whether asbestos is a health danger. Hire a skilled professional to remove asbestos from your property.