What is Mesothelioma? We see the commercials on the television for the law firms representing clients suffering from this disease on a weekly basis. Mesothelioma is a rare form of cancer that develops from the protective lining that covers many of the internal organs, the mesothelium. It is typically associated with long term exposure to asbestos.
The most common area where it occurs is the pleura, which is the outer covering of the lungs and chest cavity. It is also found in the pericardium (a sac that surrounds the heart) and in the peritoneum, which is the lining of the abdominal cavity. Finally, it can also be found in the sac surrounding the testis.
Mesothelioma develops predominantly in people who have had long term exposure to asbestos. These are people who were employed in businesses that utilized asbestos in products created for such things as floor tiles, ceiling tiles, insulation, brake pads, etc. They typically develop the disease through the inhalation of the asbestos fibers over a long period of time. However, family members of people exposed to asbestos at work have also been known to develop the disease. Furthermore, it has been known to affect people living in towns where asbestos is mined.
Symptoms of Mesothelioma
Some of the common symptoms of Mesothelioma include shortness of breath, chest wall pain, and weight loss. The disease is typically diagnosed with a chest X-ray and CT scan, which are then followed up by a biopsy if the disease is suspected.
Symptoms may not occur until after decades of long term exposure. Shortness of breath, cough, and pain in the chest due to a build- up of fluid in the pleural space are symptoms of pleural mesothelioma. There may also be blood coughed up in the sputum. In more severe cases, tumors may develop, and the individual may suffer a collapsed lung. Ultimately, the disease can metastasize and spread throughout the body.
Symptoms of Peritoneal Mesothelioma include bowel obstructions, blood clotting abnormalities, anemia and fever. Tumors may occur, but typically at a late stage of the disease in this case. Tumors in the abdominal cavity may cause abdominal pain, a mass in the abdomen, fluid build-up in the abdomen, trouble with bowel function and weight loss.
Causes of Mesothelioma
The vast majority of people who develop mesothelioma are those exposed to asbestos in their occupations over a long period of time. However, there are some instances where asbestos exposure was not present.
The duration of exposure to asbestos that may cause mesothelioma can be as little as one to three months. However, the actual manifestation of the disease is quite prolonged, as it usually will not show up for at least 15 years. The manifestation typically peaks at about 35 years.
It has also been suggested that incidences of mesothelioma tend to be higher in populations in close proximity to naturally occurring asbestos.
Mesothelioma is a dreaded disease clearly linked to exposure to asbestos in the vast majority of cases. Unfortunately, once diagnosed, the prognosis tends to be grim. In our next article we will focus our attention on the potential treatments. This has been a brief overview defining what is mesothelioma.
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