What is Mesothelioma Cancer ?
What is Mesothelioma?
Mesothelioma is a rare cancer found primarily in the lungs, but can also be found in the lining around the heart and abdominal cavity. It’s most common cause is exposure to asbestos, which is a group of six minerals with long fibers that get lodged in the pleural cavity (the small space between the lining and the lung) when inhaled.
Asbestos is found in workplaces that deal with insulation like dry wall, roofing, and flooring. It’s also been found in shipyards, automotive job sites, and incinerators. Mesothelioma cannot be cured, but like any other cancer, the earlier it’s found, the easier it is to treat.
Signs and Symptoms of Mesothelioma
- Difficulty breathing
- Pain in the ribcage on inhalation
- Chest pain
- Coughing up blood
- Pain or difficulty swallowing
- Sudden, unexpected weight loss
- Ongoing nausea, diarrhea, or constipation
After exposure, it usually takes several years for the disease to take a clinically significant form. The Mesothelioma Specialist will order a series of studies such as chest x-ray and CT scan, as well as procedures like biopsy, thoracoscopy, and laparotomy to help make a confirmatory diagnosis.
There are three major treatments for mesothelioma. It will depend on the stage of the disease, which is found through a series of diagnostic tests that show whether the cancer is localized to one part of the body, or if it has spread to other organs. These three options include:
- Surgery: Major invasive surgeries like pneumonectomy can be performed if the cancer is localized to just one part of one lung. It’s a removal of that part of the lung. If caught early enough, this can be curative. Unfortunately, mesothelioma is not
often caught in the early stages, so procedures or surgeries are more for palliative care. Noninvasive procedures performed to help relieve symptoms include thoracentesis and pericardiocentesis, which is a removal of fluid from the lining around the lungs or heart. These procedures are quite common in patients with mesothelioma.
- Chemotherapy: This is a common treatment for all cancers; however, side effects from the drugs can be severe, so a lot of patients decide against it. Chemotherapy is used to prolong life by slowing the progression of the disease, but it has the potential to destroy quality of life, so the choice to refuse chemotherapy is a personal one.
- Radiation therapy: This is used to try to kill the cancerous cells in order to slow the progression of the disease and help relieve symptoms. Radiation treatment is more common for patients with advanced disease because the side effects are less severe than chemotherapy.
What is the Prognosis?
Unfortunately, there is no cure for this disease. Once advanced, treatment takes a more palliative form to give the patient a better quality and prolonged period of life.