Mesothelioma is a form of cancer in the mesothelium, the protective covering that surrounds most of your body's internal organs. Mesothelioma is extremely rare and occurs most often in people who have had repeated exposure to asbestos or other carcinogens.
Discover the Key to Understanding Mesothelioma
While the mesothelium is found throughout the body, it is called different things depending on the region in question. In the abdominal region, the mesothelium is called the peritoneum while the portion that protects the heart is called the pericardium. This membrane actually has two layers – one that surrounds the organ and then another layer surrounding the first. These layers are comprised of cells that produce a fluid-like lubricant that allows the organs to move and slide easily without creating any friction.
As with any form of cancer, cells can sometimes become abnormal and begin to divide randomly. They can invade other parts of the body and cause damage to your organs. Some cancers also spread from one part of the body to another, also called metastasizing. Cancerous cells in the mesothelium is known as mesothelioma.
Signs and Symptoms of Mesothelioma
Symptoms of mesothelioma depend upon the area of the body that is infected. Mesothelioma of the pleura or lining of the lungs and chest cavity often produce pain in the lower back, shortness of breath and a lingering cough and fever. Trouble swallowing, unexplained weight loss and tiredness are also possible signs.
Peritoneal mesothelioma (abdominal cavity) can also produce weight loss as well as stomach pain, nausea and vomiting.
Your doctor may initially want to perform several tests that can include x-rays and MRI's of the area in question and, subject to the results, a biopsy may be needed to confirm the findings.
Could I Get Mesothelioma?
Mesothelioma is a very rare cancer that is typically found in patients that have had prolonged exposure to asbestos. It is more common in men than in women however anyone is technically capable of becoming sick. Mesothelioma is not a contagious disease however family members that keep close company with asbestos workers have an increased risk due to the possibility of airborne asbestos particles that the worker may inadvertently bring home.
To protect the public from these rogue asbestos particles, most companies maintain strict guidelines that require workers to shower and change clothes before leaving the work site.
Although rare, there have been some cases of mesothelioma in patients without any recognizable exposure to asbestos. The cause of the cancer in these instances is unknown.
Mesothelioma is typically treated with traditional cancer-fighting methods. Chemotherapy is commonly used to kill cancer throughout the body while radiation therapy targets the infected cells with high doses of radiation that is believe to kill cancer cells. Surgery is another alternative and can sometimes remove the tumor completely.
Alternative cancer-fighting methods also exist however be sure to discuss these with your physician to avoid any unintended chemical interactions.
If you are concerned about the possibility of mesothelioma, discuss any related symptoms with your doctor so that he can make a proper evaluation. As with most cancers, early detection is your best chance of full recovery.