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Mesothelioma Dictionary of Legal & Medical Terms
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Mesothelioma is a rare form of cancer that is caused by exposure to asbestos. Mesothelioma cancer comes from inhaling or digesting asbestos dust particles. Mesothelioma cancer affects the abdominal cavity, chest cavity, and the region surrounding the heart. Mesothelioma is a life-threatening disease and should not be left untreated. Most cases of mesothelioma begin in the pleura or peritoneum.

Mesothelioma cancer occurs in the mesothelium, a thin layer of tissue that covers your internal organs. The mesothelium is a membrane that covers and protects most of the internal organs of the body. There are two layers of cells in the mesothelium; one layer surrounds the organs; the other layer forms a sac around the organs.

Mesothelioma is most common in the pleura (the outer lining of the lungs and chest cavity), but it may also occur in the peritoneum (the lining of the abdominal cavity) or the pericardium (the sac that surrounds the heart).

Most people who develop mesothelioma have worked on jobs where they inhaled asbestos particles, or they have been exposed to asbestos dust and fibers in other ways, such as by washing clothes of a family member who worked around asbestos.

Mesothelioma Types

Mesothelioma can attack the pleural lining around the lungs. It can also attack the peritoneum, a tissue that surrounds the GI tract. Mesothelioma can attack the stomach lining, other internal organs, or even the pericardium (the tissue sac covering the heart).

Pleural Mesothelioma

Pleural Mesothelioma is a malignant mesothelioma that spreads within the chest cavity and sometimes involves the lung.
Pleural Mesothelioma is a cancer of the cells that make up the pleura or lining around the outside of the lungs and inside of the ribs. It’s only known cause in the U.S. is previous exposure to asbestos fibers, including chrysotile, amosite or crocidolite. Exposure to these fibers within ten years of a diagnosis of this type of cancer can be considered as a likely contributing factor in the disease process. It is the most common type of mesothelioma, accounting for about 75% of all cases.

Peritoneal Mesothelioma

The second most common form of Mesothelioma Cancer is Peritoneal Mesothelioma (Abdominal Mesothelioma).

Peritoneal mesothelioma is a cancer of the cells lining the abdominal cavity.
  • Peritoneal mesothelioma cancer is found in 10% to 20% of the mesothelioma patients and is a rapidly fatal malignancy with a median survival of less than 1 year.
  • The only known cause of Peritoneal Mesothelioma is exposure to asbestos.
  • Peritoneal Mesothelioma is a type of cancer that is caused by asbestos and it affects the lining that protects the contents of the abdomen and which also provides a lubricating fluid to enable the organs to move and work properly.
  • Peritoneal mesothelioma involves the abdominal cavity, infiltrating the liver, spleen or the bowel.
  • As with pleural mesothelioma, pain is the most common presenting complaint.

Pericardial Mesothelioma

Pericardial mesothelioma is a very rare form of mesothelioma and accounts for approximately 5% of all mesothelioma cases. Pericardial mesothelioma is a highly lethal and fortunately the rarest of mesothelioma cancers. Pericardial mesothelioma is a disease that affects the lining of the heart, or pericardium. Sometimes doctors refer to this disease as mesothelioma of the pericardium.

Pericardial mesothelioma is the most infrequent form of this rare asbestos-linked cancer. Individuals with pericardial mesothelioma have cancerous growths in tissues surrounding the heart. Due to the rarity of this cancer, pericardial mesothelioma has not been definitely associated with asbestos exposure, although strong links between asbestos and pericardial mesothelioma have been made.

Malignant Mesothelioma

Malignant mesothelioma, a rare form of cancer, is a disease in which cancer (malignant) cells are found in the sac lining the chest (the pleura) or abdomen (the peritoneum). Most people with malignant mesothelioma have worked on jobs where they breathed asbestos.

A doctor should be seen if a person has shortness of breath, pain in the chest, or pain or swelling in the abdomen. If there are symptoms, the doctor may order an x-ray of the chest or abdomen.

Abdominal Mesothelioma

Abdominal mesothelioma, also known as peritoneal mesothelioma, is one form of a rare asbestos-linked cancer, mesothelioma.
The abdominal mesothelioma, as the name suggests, is a cancer of the tissues in the abdominal cavity. Abdominal mesothelioma generally affects men ages 50-70, although women make up about one-fifth of all abdominal mesothelioma cases.

Abdominal mesothelioma is an aggressive but rare malignancy that principally affects the pleura and peritoneum. The pleura and peritoneum are lining that cover the lung (pleura) and the abdominal cavity (peritoneum).

Mesothelioma Cell Types

Mesothelioma Symptoms

Mesothelioma Symptoms include : shortness of breath due to pleural effusion (fluid between the lung and the chest wall) or chest wall pain, and general symptoms such as weight loss, abdominal pain, bowel function problems, chest wall pain, pleural effusion, or fluid surrounding the lung, shortness of breath, fatigue or anemia, wheezing, hoarseness, or cough, blood in the sputum (fluid) coughed up (hemoptysis)

Mesothelioma signs and symptoms in severe cases: blood clots in the veins, which may cause thrombophlebitis, disseminated intravascular coagulation, a disorder causing severe bleeding in many body organs, jaundice, or yellowing of the eyes and skin, low blood sugar level, pleural effusion, pulmonary emboli, or blood clots in the arteries of the lungs, severe ascites

Mesothelioma Diagnosis
How Mesothelioma is Diagnosed

Diagnosing mesothelioma is often difficult, because the symptoms are similar to those of a number of other conditions. Mesothelioma diagnosis begins with a review of the patient’s medical history, including any history of asbestos exposure.

  • A complete physical examination may be performed, including x-rays of the chest or abdomen and lung function tests. CT (or CAT) scan or an MRI may also be useful.
  • CT Scan used for a mesothelioma diagnosis is a series of detailed pictures of areas inside the body created by a computer linked to an x-ray machine.
  • MRI used for mesothelioma diagnosis is a powerful magnet linked to a computer that is used to make detailed pictures of areas inside the body. These pictures are viewed on a monitor and can also be printed.
  • Your doctor will review your work history, especially whether you have worked in an industry in which you may have been exposed to asbestos.

Mesothelioma Exposure

Victims of Asbestos Exposure

  • Asbestos causes cancer, including Mesothelioma, in Americans exposed to the hazardous material while working in steel mills, shipyards, power plants, construction sites, industrial plants.
  • The symptoms of Mesothelioma or other asbestos-related cancers may not appear for 20, 30, or even 40 or more years after the exposure occurred.
  • At least 90,000 American workers have slowly suffocated as a result of asbestos-related cancer. Additionally, asbestos is also causing cancer in those who were exposed secondarily through the worker or to the worker’s clothing. This is termed “secondary exposure”. Those most likely affected are the spouses and children of exposed workers.
  • Very few Mesothelioma patients live longer than one year after symptoms occur.
  • Secondary exposure to asbestos occurs among those who are exposed to dangerous asbestos fibers but not as a direct result of working with the asbestos related products themselves.
  • Most secondary mesothelioma cases involve women or children who inhaled asbestos fibers that were brought home on the clothing of relatives who worked directly with some type of asbestos in the workplace.

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Mesothelioma Symptoms

The most common Mesothelioma symptoms are the following:

Recent onset of shortness of breath (31%)
Recent increase in shortness of breath (30%)
Chest pain (43%)
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