Mesothelioma, Defenition, Type and Symptoms
Definition of Mesothelioma
Mesothelioma meaning is a cancerous tumor, typically malignant, that develops in the mesothelial tissue that lines the lungs, abdominal organs, chest wall, abdominal cavity, heart cavity or testicles. Mesothelioma is caused by exposure to asbestos, when the mineral fibers are inhaled or ingested and lodge in the mesothelium lining. The disease can develop 15 to 60 years after a person was exposed to asbestos, typically while on the job or serving in the military.
Types of Mesothelioma
About 3,000 people are diagnosed with mesothelioma each year in the United States. Oftentimes, a mesothelioma diagnosis comes as a surprise because the cause of the cancer, asbestos exposure, may have happened decades before. Because the mesothelium tissue lines many of the body’s organs, the cancer can occur in multiple areas of the body.
There are four types of malignant mesothelioma:
1. Pleural Mesothelioma
Pleural mesothelioma is the most common form of the asbestos cancer, making up about 75 percent of cases. Pleural mesothelioma is caused when microscopic asbestos fibers are inhaled, lodging in the pleura mesothelium lining around the chest wall and lungs. Pleural mesothelioma tumors can spread throughout the chest, as well as into the heart (pericardial) space and diaphragm.
There is no cure for pleural mesothelioma, but patients may be able to undergo a number of treatment options to increase their life expectancy and ease the pain. Patients who are healthier and who are diagnosed in the earlier stages of the cancer have a better chance for more effective treatments.
Pleural mesothelioma symptoms may include:
- Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
- Fluid build-up around the lungs (also known as pleural effusion)
- Pain in the chest
- Chronic, dry or painful cough
- Lack of energy or fatigue
- Weight loss or loss of appetite
- Lumps on the chest area
2. Peritoneal Mesothelioma
The second-most common type of mesothelioma is peritoneal mesothelioma, sometimes defined as abdominal mesothelioma. Anywhere from 20 percent to 33 percent of the new cases of mesothelioma diagnosed each year are in the peritoneum, the tissue lining the abdominal organs and the abdominal cavity. Peritoneal mesothelioma is caused when asbestos fibers are inhaled or swallowed and stick in this tissue.
Peritoneal mesothelioma is not curable, but there are several treatment options to help alleviate patients’ pain and improve their prognosis. Treatment options will depend on the patient’s health and how early the cancer is detected.
Peritoneal mesothelioma symptoms can include:
- Pain and swelling in the abdominal area
- Build-up of fluid in the abdomen (also known as ascites)
- Loss of appetite or weight loss
- Lumps in the abdominal area
3. Pericardial Mesothelioma
Pericardial mesothelioma is a rarer type of the asbestos cancer that develops in the pericardium tissue that lines the heart. As with the more common pleural and peritoneal mesothelioma, pericardial mesothelioma is caused by asbestos fibers being inhaled or ingested.
Although pericardial mesothelioma tumors can be benign or malignant, a large majority of cases are not caught in an early stage. This means treatment is aimed at preventing the cancer from spreading and relieving pain.
Pericardial mesothelioma symptoms can include:
- Fluid build-up in the pericardial space around the heart
- in the chest
- of breath
- Weight loss
4. Testicular Mesothelioma
Also referred to as mesothelioma of the tunica vaginalis testis, testicular mesothelioma is the rarest type of mesothelioma. The cancer develops as a tumor in the tissue membrane covering the testicle.
Because testicular mesothelioma is so rare, not much research has been done to define its characteristics, making diagnosis difficult. However, some research indicates that patients with testicular mesothelioma may have a better prognosis than those with pleural, peritoneal or pericardial mesothelioma.
Testicular mesothelioma symptoms can include:
- Swelling or pain in the testicle
- A testicular mass
- Build-up of fluid in the scrotum
Symptoms of mesothelioma are most commonly felt in the chest or abdomen, but the specific symptoms vary depending on the type of mesothelioma a patient is diagnosed with.If you or a family member is experiencing any of these symptoms, you should see your doctor and talk about your history of asbestos exposure. You doctor will likely perform a chest X-ray, MRI, CT scan or other imaging tests to evaluate your symptoms. Ultimately, your doctor will need to do a biopsy in order to make a mesothelioma diagnosis.