What is Mesothelioma?

Mesothelioma is an uncommon type of cancer that attacks the tissue that protects most of the internal organs in the body. This thin covering is called the mesothelium. This type of cancer spreads rapidly and even with treatments, it is impossible to cure.

The most common cause of this form of cancer is due to breathing asbestos into the lungs. The time frame from asbestos exposure to developing the cancer is often 20 to 40 years. Other people who are at risk are those who live with a person who is frequently exposed to asbestos and someone who has an immediate family member that has been diagnosed with mesothelioma.

What are the Symptoms of Mesothelioma?

Individuals who have pleural mesothelioma, which occurs in the lung tissue, will experience pain when coughing and be short of breath. They may also have pain below their rib cage and notice growths underneath the skin on their upper torso. People who have peritoneal mesothelioma, which develops in the abdomen tissue, may experience stomach pain and swelling, and unusual growths in the abdomen.

Both types of mesothelioma will also cause individuals to lose weight. When the cancer affects the tissues of the heart, which is called pericardial mesothelioma, individuals will have trouble breathing and pains in their chest.

Mesothelioma Causes

Exposure to asbestos is the main culprit that has been linked to the development of mesothelioma. When asbestos is broken up, dust is created. If a person inhales or swallows the dust, asbestos will enter the lungs or stomach and it eventually leads to mesothelioma. While asbestos is often blamed for this type of cancer, it is not the only cause that healthcare professionals link to this disease. The other possible causes are:

  • Zeolites. It is a substance that is chemically related to asbestos and it can be found in certain areas of Turkey.
  • Radiation. There are few published reports that state the possibility that mesothelioma is developed as a result of the exposure to the high dosage of radiation.
  • SV40 virus. Some studies reach the conclusion of a possibility that the SV40 virus may have increased the risk of mesothelioma.
  • Genetics. There are some experts who believe that certain patients with mesothelioma are genetically predisposed to this disease.

How is Mesothelioma Treated?

Most of the time, this form of cancer is not detected until the later stages of the disease.

Treatments include

Surgery to remove the cancer is often performed if the cancer is in its beginning stages and has not spread to other parts of the body. If surgery is not an option, mesothelioma cancer patients may choose to have chemotherapy or radiation treatments. Some individuals participate in clinical trials to test new kinds of mesothelioma treatments. These currently include biological therapy, targeted therapy and gene therapy.

Mesothelioma Prevention

Since asbestos mainly causes mesothelioma, the obvious way to prevent this condition is to reduce exposure to asbestos. For workers in close proximity to this substance, it is very crucial that they follow the work safety regulations by wearing protective clothing. They should also take a shower before lunch breaks and before going home to avoid spreading the asbestos dust particles to the public and to their families.

Asbestos is found in old homes, so home owners should take precautions in making their homes safe from the exposure. If the owners are not sure if they are at risk, they should hire a professional to test the air quality. If the test determines that they are, then they should hire a qualified expert to remove the asbestos safely.

It is never a good idea for residents to remove asbestos on their own, especially if they do not receive proper training. Removing it would only break it up and cause the dust to form in the air making it easier to be inhaled. It would be best to leave the asbestos intact until the professionals are able to remove it.

It is interesting to note that some people who have years of asbestos exposure never develop mesothelioma whereas others with brief exposure develop the disease. While the preventative measures that are mentioned above can significantly reduce the likelihood of developing this type of cancer, it is not guaranteed that it can actually prevent it 100% of the time and other factors may be at play.