Mesothelioma is a cancer almost entirely attributed to exposure to asbestos fibers. The most common forms of mesothelioma are pleural and peritoneal or abdominal, although other forms include testicular and pericardial. The prognosis of mesothelioma depends on the stage at which the disease is discovered and diagnosed.
Development of mesothelioma
Mesothelial cells are found in the membranes that line the various cavities in the body. The pleura is the membrane that lines the chest cavity and holds the lungs; the peritoneum is the membrane that lines the abdominal cavity and holds the intestines and digestive tract; the pericardium is the membrane that lines the inside of the chest and holds the heart; and the testicular membrane holds the testes in the scrotum.
The most common types of mesothelioma are pleural and peritoneal mesothelioma. These types of asbestos-related cancers develop when asbestos fibers are inhaled or ingested. The fibers end up between mesothelial cells, which become irritated and inflamed. As a result of this irritation and inflammation, cancerous tissue and tumors develop.
Mesothelioma can be a very slow cancer to develop and the symptoms are often very vague in the early stages. With pleural mesothelioma, symptoms may include a dry cough, pain when breathing, chest pain, or difficulty breathing or catching your breath. In abdominal mesothelioma, symptoms may include unexplained weight loss, constipation, diarrhea, fever, night sweats, or the development of lumps or masses in the abdominal area.
Stages of Mesothelioma
As is the case with many cancers, mesothelioma has four stages. The later the stage at which a person is diagnosed, the worse the mesothelioma prognosis is for that person. For example, someone diagnosed at stage three or four will have some spread of the cancer from the primary site to other parts of the body. Stage four is the final stage of mesothelioma and means the cancer has spread significantly to tissues and organs throughout the body.
Unfortunately, many people find that this cancer is not diagnosed until the late stages of the disease, when it has been growing for 30 or 40 years. People with this level of mesothelioma prognosis find that treatment options are limited and their effectiveness is also limited.
For people who are diagnosed earlier in the disease, their prognosis for mesothelioma is much better because their treatment options and the effectiveness of those treatments are much better than in later stages of the disease.
Treatments include surgery to remove tumors, radiation, chemotherapy, and pain management. Some patients with abdominal mesothelioma choose to inject chemotherapy directly into the mesothelium right after surgery, which has been shown to be an effective treatment.
Mesothelioma is a cancer closely associated with exposure to asbestos fibers, either through work-related exposure or through close association with someone who has been exposed to asbestos. The two most common types of mesothelioma are pleural and abdominal mesothelioma. Unfortunately, many people are diagnosed in the late stages of the disease, resulting in a poor prognosis for mesothelioma, especially if diagnosed in stage three or four of the disease.