Mesothelioma is a rare cancer that occurs in the lungs. In addition to affecting the lungs, it can also result in complications that affect the heart and the abdomen. Every year, there are as many as 3,000 people diagnosed with mesothelioma. Men are four times more likely than women to be diagnosed with mesothelioma, and with the exception of benign mesothelioma all forms of the disease are terminal. There is no cure.
Patients who are diagnosed with the disease are expected to survive for less than a year in most cases, although there are other factors that can change the life expectancy of the patient.
This terminal cancer is often caused by exposure to asbestos which is inhaled or otherwise ingested. This leads to inflammation and infection. Asbestos is a naturally occurring but dangerous fiber that was often used by a large number of industries throughout the twentieth century. The dangers of asbestos become well known in the seventies, leading to a decline in its use. Unfortunately, it is still found in some buildings. More than thirty percent of the people who suffer from mesothelioma are veterans.
Types of Mesothelioma
There are five different types of mesothelioma that the medical world is aware of. One of them is benign, but the following four are terminal diseases.
Pleural Mesothelioma: This is the most common form of the disease, affecting seventy five percent of the people who are diagnosed with the disease. It forms in the lining of the lungs, which is referred to in the medical world as pleura.
Peritoneal Mesothelioma: Twenty percent of people who suffer from the disease suffer from this variant. Rather than in the lungs, this forms in the lining of the abdomen. This lining is known as the peritoneal membrane.
Pericardia Mesothelioma: Affecting about five percent of the people with the disease, this cancer develops inside the lining of the heart, which is known as the pericardium.
Testicular Mesothelioma: This is an extremely rare form of the disease, and occurs in the testicles of men.
Symptoms of Mesothelioma
Mesothelioma does not show any signs of occurrence until two to five decades after a patient was exposed to asbestos. The symptoms of mesothelioma are often easy to confuse with the symptoms of much less dangerous diseases. Some of the most common symptoms are lung issues. These include chest pain, a cough that does not go away, and shortness of breath. Lumps may also develop under the skin and chest. Patients may also feel abdominal pain and nausea, they may lose weight, and they may have bowel issues. Patients may also feel heart palpitations, have difficulty breathing, and suffer from night sweats.
A patient who has been found to show all of the symptoms of mesothelioma and has been diagnosed as such will then go on to receive treatment for the disease. There are a number of different types of treatment available for this disease. Among the options that are available are surgery and chemotherapy. Another option is radiation therapy. Many patients who have been diagnosed with mesothelioma are given more than one of these treatments this is referred to as multimodality therapy. By combining more than one of these effective, rigorous treatments, it is possible to approach a solution to the cancer from various angles. This improves upon the life expectancy of the patient so that they are much more likely to survive the disease.
In addition to these options, there are also some more experimental procedures. Among these options are photo dynamic therapy, gene therapy, and immunotherapy. Unfortunately, these options are still in the experimental phase, with little knowledge as to their effectiveness. For this reason they are typically only available to patients as part of a clinical trial.
Some of the more recent clinical trials conducted on photo dynamic therapy and immunotherapy have shown results that are positive enough to suggest that further research is a good idea. Patients who agree to take part in a clinical trial are not only exposing themselves to treatments that may be beneficial; they are also providing researchers with the information that they need to develop new treatments and possibly cures for people who are suffering from mesothelioma in the present and future.
Author: Randolph Brandmeier (GoArticles)