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What You Need to Know About Mesothelioma

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What You Need to Know About Mesothelioma


Mesothelioma is a rare and devastating cancer characterized by malignant cells in the Mesothelium, a protective membrane that envelops most of the body’s internal organs. To fully understand this condition, it’s essential to grasp the nature of the Mesothelium and the distinct types of Mesothelioma it can give rise to.

The Mesothelium consists of two layers of cells that serve as a protective shield for internal organs. One layer envelops the organ, while the other forms a sac around it. This intricate structure secretes a lubricating fluid between the layers, facilitating the smooth movement of organs like the heart and lungs against adjacent structures.

Types of Mesothelioma

Mesothelioma manifests in three primary forms, each with its unique characteristics:

  1. Pleural Mesothelioma: This is the most common type and typically occurs in individuals exposed to high levels of asbestos, often in occupational settings. Pleural Mesothelioma affects the thin membrane lining the chest cavity, which can lead to thickening or calcification of the pleural lining. While not inherently fatal, it can impair lung function and signify substantial asbestos exposure, increasing the risk of developing more severe asbestos-related conditions. Pleural Mesothelioma can spread from the pleura to the outer chest wall, abdomen, and heart, often resulting in a fatal outcome within a year. Early detection can open the door to potentially life-sustaining treatments.
  2. Peritoneal Mesothelioma: This rare cancer affects the thin cell walls surrounding the abdominal cavity, known as the peritoneum. Its sole known cause is asbestos exposure. The treatment options for Peritoneal Mesothelioma depend on the disease’s stage. Early stages may allow for surgical intervention, but as the condition progresses, the options narrow down to chemotherapy and radiation therapy. Symptoms may include abdominal, chest, or stomach pain, sometimes leading to misdiagnoses, as conditions like hernias can be mistaken for pleural effusion caused by peritoneal tumor growth.
  3. Pericardial Mesothelioma: This is the rarest among the three forms and originates in the Mesothelium. While Pleural Mesothelioma accounts for around 70% and Peritoneal Mesothelioma for about 20% of all Mesothelioma cases, Pericardial Mesothelioma constitutes only 10%. Just like the other forms, it is exclusively linked to asbestos exposure.
Asbestos and Mesothelioma: A Lethal Connection

Asbestos, a naturally occurring yet toxic mineral, is the primary culprit behind Mesothelioma cases. Asbestos exposure occurs through two main pathways: ingestion of asbestos fibers that are processed through digestion and get lodged in the peritoneum, and inhalation of asbestos fibers, which can reach the abdominal wall via the lungs and lymph nodes. In cases of Pleural Mesothelioma, the cancer can also metastasize directly into the abdominal cavity if not impeded.

Asbestos: A Hidden Danger

The widespread use of asbestos in various applications during the 20th century significantly contributed to asbestos exposure. Those manufacturing and using asbestos-containing products, particularly in industrial and commercial settings like refineries, power plants, shipyards, and steel plants, faced heightened risks. Even some residential constructions incorporated asbestos-containing materials. Astonishingly, certain companies continued using asbestos products despite being aware of the life-threatening risks associated with asbestos exposure.

Understanding Mesothelioma Causes

To date, there is no evidence suggesting that Mesothelioma can be caused by anything other than prolonged asbestos exposure. Smoking, while not beneficial, lacks a direct link to Mesothelioma causation.

Diagnosing Mesothelioma

The diagnosis of Mesothelioma requires an invasive procedure like thoracoscopy, pleural biopsy, laparotomy, or laparoscopy to obtain a biopsy of affected or suspicious tissues. Trained pathologists then conduct a microscopic examination to establish a definitive diagnosis. Special biological or chemical stains may be applied to the tissue to aid in diagnosis, and the pathologist assesses the tumor’s growth rate and biological virulence. Staging, crucial for determining treatment approaches, can be conducted through scans like X-rays, CT scans, MRIs, or other imaging techniques, although X-ray staging is often considered unreliable.

Mesothelioma Treatment: Options and Considerations

Treatment options for Mesothelioma depend on factors such as cancer stage, location, and the patient’s age and overall health. Common treatments include surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy.

  • Surgery: The preferred choice for early-stage cases involving procedures that may encompass the removal of part of the chest or abdominal lining or even a lung in cases of Pleural Mesothelioma.
  • Radiation Therapy: Utilizing high-energy rays to target and shrink tumors.
  • Chemotherapy: Administering anticancer drugs, often through intravenous injections

The following video from the University of Maryland Medical Center (UMMC) discusses mesothelioma.

Exploring the Legal Aspect

If you or a loved one has been affected by Mesothelioma due to asbestos exposure and are seeking legal guidance, we are here to assist you. Please contact us at (916-921-6400 or (800) 404-5400 to arrange a free consultation and explore your legal options.

Editor’s Note: 11.6.23 Photo by Ani Kolleshi on Unsplash [cs 791]