Mesothelioma: A Rare Form of Cancer
Mesothelioma: A Rare Form of Cancer
Mesothelioma, or, more precisely, malignant mesothelioma, is a rare form of cancer that develops from cells of the protective lining that covers many of the internal organs of the body. Mesothelioma is most commonly caused by exposure to asbestos. The most common site for mesothelioma is the outer lining of the lungs and internal chest wall, but it can also arise in the the lining of the abdominal cavity, the pericardium, the sac that surrounds the heart, or the sac that surrounds the testis.
Most people who develop mesothelioma have worked in careers such as mining, where they inhaled or ingested asbestos fibers, or were exposed to airborne asbestos dust and fibers in other ways. Washing the clothing of a family member who worked with asbestos also creates, Paraoccupational Secondary Exposure, a risk for developing mesothelioma.
Signs and symptoms of mesothelioma include shortness of breath due to fluid between the lung and the chest wall (pleural effusion), chest wall pain and unexplained weight loss. The diagnosis may be suspected based on a chest X-ray and/or CT scan findings, but must be confirmed either by examining serous effusion cytology or with a biopsy. A process of inserting a tube with a camera into the chest can be used to acquire biopsy material, and allows the introduction of substances such as talc to obliterate the pleural space (a procedure called pleurodesis), preventing more fluid from accumulating and pressing on the lung. Despite treatment with chemotherapy, radiation therapy or sometimes surgery, mesothelioma carries a poor prognosis. Research about screening tests for the early detection of mesothelioma is ongoing.
Common Questions About The Disease:
- Is Mesothelioma Cancer? Mesothelioma is an aggressive cancer affecting the membrane lining of the lungs and abdomen.
- How easy is it to get Mesothelioma? Approximately 70 to 80 percent of people who get mesothelioma have been heavily exposed to asbestos at work. Usually, the disease shows up 35 to 50 years after exposure, so most people with it are over the age of 65. Mostly men get the disease, but women can also get mesothelioma. It is most common in whites.
- What is Malignant Mesothelioma? Malignant mesothelioma is the most serious of all asbestos-related diseases. Exposure to asbestos is the primary cause and risk factor for mesothelioma.
- What is Peritoneal Mesothelioma? Peritoneal mesothelioma is the name given to the cancer that attacks the lining of the abdomen. This type of cancer 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.
- What is Epithelial Mesothelioma? Epithelial pleural mesothelioma refers to a specific type of mesothelioma that affects the protective tissue surrounding the lungs, called the pleura, and where epithelial cells are present, which look like small, square cells with a tubular configuration and visible cell nucleus. When these cells become cancerous, they are referred to as epithelioid cells.
- What is Benign or Fibrous Mesothelioma? Benign mesothelioma is a noncancerous tumor of the lining of the lung and chest cavity, an area called the pleura. It is also called solitary fibrous tumor of the pleura. About half of the people with this type of tumor do not show any symptoms. If the tumor grows to a large size and pushes on the lung, it can lead to symptoms, such as chest pain, chronic cough and/or shortness of breath. The outcome is expected to be good with prompt treatment. The condition may return in about 1 out of 10 cases although could take 10 years.
- What is asbestos cancer? While the term “asbestos cancer” most often refers to mesothelioma, a number of other cancers are associated with asbestos exposure. Lung cancer can be directly caused by asbestos exposure, and some studies have suggested a link between exposure and other types of cancer.
- What is the Survival Rate or Prognosis of someone diagnosed with Mesothelioma? About 40 percent of patients with mesothelioma survive the first year after diagnosis. That survival rate depends on many factors, including age, cancer stage, cancer type, race and gender. Pleural mesothelioma is typically fatal within one year of diagnosis. However, understanding and recognizing key risk factors, like exposure, will typically lead to early detection of the cancer. Those with epithelial mesothelioma have a better survival rate than the other types.
- What is the average lawsuit worth in a Mesothelioma case? According to a recent Mealey's Litigation Report, the average mesothelioma trial award is estimated at $2.2 million. The average mesothelioma settlement is between $1 million and $1.5 million.
Certain factors affect the chance of recovery and treatment options for mesothelioma and depend on the following:
- The stage of the cancer.
- The size of the tumor.
- Whether the tumor can be removed completely by surgery.
- The amount of fluid in the chest or abdomen.
- The patient's age.
- The patient's activity level.
- The patient's general health, including lung and heart health.
- The type of mesothelioma cells and how they look under a microscope.
- The number of white blood cells and how much hemoglobin is in the blood.
- Whether the patient is male or female.
- Whether the cancer has just been diagnosed or has recurred (come back).
A mesothelioma prognosis usually is not favorable, but may vary depending on the stage of the cancer. Diagnosing the cancer in the early stages offers a more hopeful outlook because doctors can still perform curative surgery to remove tumors.
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