Special Features

The Basic Information on Mesothelioma Everyone Should Know

Do you know that about 3,000 cases are diagnosed with mesothelioma every year in the United States? The vast majority of those people have been exposed to asbestos at work. The use of asbestos has reduced in the U.S. in the recent decades. A lot of Americans are still getting sick from this condition, though. This is because the symptoms of mesothelioma can occur many years after exposure to the asbestos. It can develop even 50 years after asbestos exposure!

Things are not better in the United Kingdom. In this country, more than 2,500 people get sick from this cancer each year. Most of them are people aged from 60 to 80. It has emerged that this aggressive cancer affects men more commonly than women.

The pleural mesothelioma is the most common type of this disease. It creates on the pleural lining, i.e., around the lining of the lungs. It represents approximately 75 % of all diagnoses. But this cancer also forms on the other body parts as well. Thus, it can form on the lining of the abdomen (peritoneal mesothelioma), testicles, and heart. The mesothelioma symptoms develop over time in a gradual way. They typically appear 10-30 years after exposure to asbestos.

The most common symptoms of pleural mesothelioma include:

  • shortness of breath   

  • chest pain   

  • persistent cough   

  • extreme tiredness   

  • a high temperature followed by sweating (particularly at night)   

  • swollen, clubbed fingertips   

  • loss of appetite

The common symptoms of peritoneal mesothelioma include:

  • pain or swelling or pain in the tummy area   

  • feeling sick and fatigue   

  • unexplained weight loss with loss of appetite        

  • constipation or diarrhea

You should contact your doctor if you have experienced any of these symptoms. Especially, if they are persistent and if you were exposed to asbestos in the past. Your GP will refer you to an oncologist for some tests if they suspect mesothelioma. There are various tests that can help diagnose a cancer of mesothelial tissue. Those include:

  • X-ray of chest or tummy   

  • Fluid drainage   

  • Computerized tomography scan        

  • Laparoscopy or thoracoscopy

Mesothelioma usually affects people whose body has been exposed to asbestos for many years. 70-80 % of people suffering from this cancer have been exposed to this silicate mineral at work. They work in shipyards, industrial settings, auto repair shops, and the like. Even one-time and short-term exposures may put you at risk. The complications begin when you disturb materials that contain asbestos. This cause the release of hazardous fibers and particles into the air. The health complications occur when you swallow or inhale these small fibers. This way, they get trapped in your body. Most often, asbestos fibers are trapped in the pleura - the lining of the lungs. They can also store in the lining of the heart or abdominal cavity. Over the years, these asbestos-containing fibers cause different biological changes. Those can trigger some genetic damages that can lead to cancer. This is how asbestos causes mesothelioma.

There is no cure for this wicked disease yet, so it's virtually impossible to cure it today. Still, the symptoms can be controlled by an appropriate treatment. Researchers are putting a lot of effort in developing new treatments. So, we can expect to see more successful therapies in the coming years.

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