Mesothelioma represents a form of cancer, quite rare actually, which forms into the mesothelium. Mesothelium is the membrane which covers and protects the major part of internal organs. Depending on each organ covered by the mesothelium, the name of this membrane differs. For the organs in the abdominal cavity, the name of the mesothelium is peritoneum. The one covering the lungs is called pleura. The pericardium is the membrane protecting the heart. The internal reproductive organs of men are protected by tunica vaginalis, while the ones of women are protected by serosa uteri.
The mesothelium has two layers and it also produces lubricating fluid which is released in between the layers. People who work in toxic environments and are exposed to asbestos in high level of concentration are the most likely to develop mesothelioma. By inhaling or ingesting the asbestos fibers, their lodging inside cavities and organs lead to infections and other inflammatory processes. Furthermore, this leads to cellular damage. In time, the cells which were affected start to divide uncontrollably. This has as result the thickening of the mesothelium layers, so the fluid between the layers starts to buildup.
Asbestos exposure doesn’t produce cancer immediately, but in as much as 50 years’ time. The major problem with this type of cancer is that it is rarely identified in the early stages, as it does not create any symptoms. Therefore, treating mesothelioma depends very much on when it is discovered and how advanced it is in that moment. The positive response to treatment is more probable to take place if the mesothelioma is diagnosed in an early stage. The healing becomes more and more unlikely to happen if the affection reached an advanced stage.
The most common mesothelioma form is the pleural mesothelioma. The symptoms are dysphagia, meaning difficulty in swallowing, persistent dry cough, dyspnea, meaning shortness of breath, fever and night sweats, persistent chest pain and fatigue. Because it affects the membrane protecting the lungs, the pleural mesothelioma affects the respiratory function the most.
The peritoneal mesothelioma has as symptoms accentuated anemia, unexplained weight loss, fatigue, frequent constipation or diarrhea episodes, lumps and swelling, abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting. Pericardial mesothelioma is a less frequent type of cancer which leads to dyspnea, chest pain and heart palpitations, generalized fatigue and fever. Even more rare is testicular mesothelioma, which is why there aren’t typical symptoms established. Testicular lumps are the common signs which were reported in the professional literature.
In order to establish a diagnosis, a physical examination is required which may lead to further additional tests such as CT, X-rays, PET or MRI scans. In case of a positive result, meaning the presence of cancer, a biopsy may be required to establish the nature of the mesothelioma: malignant or benign.
The treatment of mesothelioma is usually done by surgery completed with radiotherapy and chemotherapy. Through surgery, the affected tissues are removed and the typical symptoms are relieved. Through radiotherapy, the cancer cells are killed and the growth of others is prevented, while through chemotherapy, special medicines are introduced into the body to target and kill the cells which develop mesothelioma.
Unfortunately, mesothelioma has one of the highest mortality rates among the human diseases. An infected person has on average, from the diagnosis time until death, no more than 24 months to live. In the United States approximately 3000 citizens die every year because of mesothelioma. Most of these people are the ones who worked in toxic environments such as factories, mine, shipyards, even for the military. They are hardworking people who pay efforts to provide a decent living for their families and have various professions: engineers, steel workers, pipe fitters, auto mechanics and so on. When coming home from work after an exhausting day, the last thing they have their mind on is how they are slowly killing themselves.