Mesothelioma: Terminal Cancer Explained in 601 words.

Mesothelioma is a malignant cancer of the mesothelium due to asbestos exposure. The mesothelium is the layer of tissue that surrounds the internal organs of the human body. Mesothelioma is a very aggressive form of cancer which develops decades after exposure to asbestos. The time it takes to develop is known as the, “latency period”. It can affect almost any part of the human body. However, the lungs, abdomen, pericardium, and even the tunica vaginalis of the testis are the most commonly affected.

Who is the most at risk to developing this cancer?

Certain people are at a higher risk of developing mesothelioma than others. As asbestos minerals were commonly used in the construction industry, plumbers, carpenters, roofers, and electricians are at a higher risk of developing mesothelioma.

Asbestos mineral miners as well as people who worked in factories which produced products for the construction industry are at a higher risk as well. Even living with a person who is exposed to asbestos can increase your risk for mesothelioma as asbestos fibers are highly durable and resistant to heat and chemical products. These fibers tend to penetrate into the human tissue and clothes as well.

Fortunately, asbestos is no longer used in the construction industry due to its hazardous effects on the human body. But don’t close this article yet, because buildings and houses that were constructed before the year 2000 are more than likely to contain asbestos.

How does asbestos exposure cause Mesothelioma?

Mesothelioma typically develops many years and even decades after exposure to asbestos. As the asbestos fibers are inhaled during asbestos exposure, these fibers get trapped causing inflammation of the mesothelium, leading to a formation of scar tissue and eventually to cancer development. There is a long latency period between asbestos exposure and mesothelioma development which makes it sometimes very difficult to diagnose. Asbestos fibers are not trapped only in the pleura, but they can get trapped in the abdominal cavity or heart.

Types of Mesothelioma & their common symptoms

The signs and symptoms of mesothelioma usually depend on the place where the cancer is located and the severity of the symptoms are based on the stage of the cancer. Here is a short video

Pleural mesothelioma is the most common form of mesothelioma affecting the pleura, the tissue surrounding the lungs. Common signs and symptoms of pleural mesothelioma include shortness of breath, chest pain, difficulties swallowing, constant coughing, loss of appetite, unexplained weight loss over a short period of time, fever, nausea and vomiting, fatigue, and a collection of fluid in the chest cavity known as pleural effusion, etc.

Pericardial mesothelioma develops in the pericardium, the tissue surrounding the human heart. Common signs and symptoms of pericardial mesothelioma along with general signs and symptoms like nausea and vomiting, fatigue, loss of appetite, unexplained weight loss over a short period of time or fever include difficulties breathing, chest pain, irregular heartbeat, heart palpitations, paradoxical pulse, etc.

Peritoneal mesothelioma develops in the peritoneum, the tissue surrounding the internal abdominal organs. Along with general signs and symptoms, peritoneal mesothelioma is characterized by abdominal pain, diarrhea altered with constipation, and abdominal swelling due to ascites, the formation of lumps under the abdominal skin, etc.

Testicular mesothelioma develops in the tunica vaginalis testis. Common signs and symptoms of this type of mesothelioma include swelling of the testicles, a presence of a mass in the testicles, and a presence of hydrocele or fluid accumulation in the testicles, etc.

Mesothelioma is a dangerous type of cancer, which has no cure. Avoiding asbestos exposure is highly recommended in order to minimize the chances of developing mesothelioma by a drastic measure.

If you wish to help spread awareness on this specific cancer, an amazing organization to help or donate to is, Dad Hats Factory. They donate dad hats to small cancer organizations so they may “raise awareness in style”. They’ve taken a new fad and have applied it to a great cause. They’ve also created a hat specifically for mesothelioma cancer groups.

REFERENCES:

  1. Mesothelioma Treatment Community. Mesothelioma: Beginners Guide & Tour. Accessed at:
     https://www.treatmesothelioma.org/mesothelioma/
  2. National Cancer Institute. Malignant Mesothelioma. Accessed at www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/pdq/treatment/malignantmesothelioma/HealthProfessional
  3. Peritoneal Mesothelioma: A Review, Bridda A, Padoan I, Mencarelli R et — al. MedGenMed. 2007;9 (2): 32, Accessed at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1994863/
  4. Statistics and Outlook for Mesothelioma. Cancer Research UK. Accessed at: www.cancerresearchuk.org/about-cancer/type/mesothelioma/treatment/statistics-and-outlook-for-mesothelioma