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Mesothelioma

more about Mesothelioma


  • This is a rare form of cancer in which malignant cells invade the sac lining of the lung (pleura) or the abdomen (peritoneum).  Mesothelioma can occur 20 - 50 years after exposure to the causative agent.

  • Symptoms usually occur 20-50 years after exposure and may include:
    1. Shortness of breath
    2. Chest pain
    3. Abdominal pain
    4. Abdominal swelling
    5. Weight loss
    6. Loss of appetite
    7. Fatigue

  • Exposure to asbestos, an agent used in construction for insulation (covering walls, pipes, wires, etc.) prior to the 1970s.  The risk for developing Mesothelioma increases with the duration and intensity of the patient's exposure to asbestos.

  • History of exposure to asbestos
  • General physical and laboratory exams (i.e., routine blood work and physical assessment)
  • Non-invasive tests (tests that do not involve entering the body)
  • X-Rays of the chest and abdomen helps detect a tumor and the presence of fluid.
  • CAT scans of the chest and abdomen (give more information than simple X-Rays).
  • An Ultrasound of the abdomen uses sound to locate a tumor or expose the presence of fluid.
  • Invasive tests (need to enter the body) such as the following are done by a specialist in the hospital:
    1. Thoracoscopy is performed by inserting a tubelike camera between two ribs (the area will be numb) in order to get a better look at the Mesothelioma.
    2. Thoracentesis refers to the examination of fluid or blood under a microscope taken during a thoracoscopy.
    3. Biopsy is performed during thoracoscopy.
    4. Peritnoscopy is similar to thoracoscopy but is used to see inside the peritoneum.

  • Exposure to asbestos.  The longer the duration and the more intense the exposure, the higher the risk of developing Mesothelioma.
  • Exposure at work and in poorly ventilated areas:
    1. Insulators of pipes and boilers
    2. Boilermakers
    3. Plumbers
    4. Shipyard workers
    5. Navy personal
    6. Steam and pipe fitters
    7. Mechanics, especially those working with the brakes and clutch
    8. Electricians, carpenters, and steel workers
    9. Tilers of roofs, floors, and ceilings
    10. Those who worked with powdered plaster and cement
    11. Construction workers
    12. Cases have been seen with exposure to minimal amounts (2-4 months) and short exposure.  At high risk are housewives exposed to home insulation, and even those exposed to minimal amounts working at summer jobs.

  • Treatment depends on the stage of Mesothelioma, taking into account its size, how far it has spread and where (i.e., lymph nodes and other parts of the body).  The older the patient, the more conservative the treatment.
  • Surgical removal of the tumor is an option in the early stages
  • Chemotherapy or using anti-cancer drugs
  • Radiation uses high dose X-Rays for treatment.
  • Many experimental and promising drugs are being researched, including:
    1. Endostatin -- kills the tumor by cutting out its blood supply
    2. Aroplatin -- derived from platinum, it can kill tumor cells
    3. Interferon gamma and interlukin also show promise in helping to stem the condition
  • Symptomatic therapy:
    1. Medication to kill the pain or increase the patient's appetite.
    2. The removal of pleural or peritoneal fluids can help to reduce symptoms.

  • If you are in the high-risk group exposed to asbestos or have any symptoms, call your physician.  Make sure to ask about all options and research.  Do not lose hope.  The treatments are getting better and the survival rate after 5 years is about 40% in some cases.  For more information, call 1-877-FOR-MESO.

  • Other cancers invading the chest or abdomen
  • Benign (not cancerous) reaction to asbestos
  • Abscess of pleura or peritoneum




more about Mesothelioma


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