What Is Mesothelioma?
The word “mesothelioma” is actually a misnomer, as the disease actually refers to a variety of cases. It is also known as “malignant pleural mesothelioma”. The majority of mesothelioma cases are diagnosed at an advanced age, and about three quarters of those diagnosed are men. This is primarily due to differences in the age of victims versus other types of cancer, which tend to affect women and children more.
Mesothelioma is a disease that usually starts in the pleura, the tissue that forms the roof of the chest cavity. The mesothelium is a membrane that protects the lining of the lungs and chest cavity from abrasions and infections and is lined with tissue known as epithelium. This membrane protects the rest of the body from infection, and if it becomes damaged, the result is called a malignancy.
One type of malignancy that is rare is pleural mesothelioma. This disease is often a consequence of asbestos exposure. When asbestos fibers are breathed in, they get lodged in the linings of the lungs, where they may build up over time and eventually form into malignant cells. They are then collected in a fluid that leaks from the lungs and into the pleura. Sometimes the fluid makes its way back into the lungs, making the condition even more serious.
In some cases of pleural mesothelioma, the cancer begins as small, non-cancerous tumors, which then grow into malignant tissue. In many cases, the cancer grows slowly, without causing any symptoms.
Diagnosis is usually made through an exam of the chest and abdomen. There may be fluid around the lung or fluid collecting behind the lungs. In some cases, the abdomen will also show mesothelioma, as this is where the malignant cells originate. X-rays may also be taken, and blood tests may be done to determine if the patient has been exposed to asbestos in the past.
Treatment can be administered to patients who have been diagnosed at various stages of the disease. Most patients who are diagnosed with pleural mesothelioma can expect to undergo surgery, followed by radiation therapy. Surgery is usually reserved for those who have very severe forms of the disease. Patients who are diagnosed at an early stage of the disease can often receive radiation therapy in conjunction with surgery, and there are currently several drugs available that can be used to treat this type of cancer.
Asbestos exposure is another risk factor in developing pleural mesothelioma. Those who work with asbestos or have previous instances of asbestos exposure, may be more susceptible to the disease. People who smoke or are exposed to asbestos fibers on a regular basis are also at increased risk. Workers who work in construction and manufacturing industries are particularly at risk, as well as those who work in the medical industry, who may come into contact with asbestos in the course of their work.
The majority of mesothelioma cases are detected at an advanced stage, and the treatments are aimed at preventing or slowing the progress of the disease. This is usually accomplished by either using surgery or radiation therapy to remove the tumors, or by giving drugs to help the body’s immune system to eliminate the abnormal cells. Since chemotherapy is commonly used to treat the disease, patients can expect to continue to receive treatment until they are completely cured.
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