Mesothelioma is caused by the inhalation and repeated exposure to asbestos. Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral that has been used in many different applications including fire-proofing, roofing, plumbing, insulation and fire doors. It was banned from public use in countries around the world in the 1970s, but remains a legal substance in the United States. It is still used extensively in building supplies, as well as insulating products, flame retardant caulking and the like.
Mesothelioma is a slow-growing disease that slowly damages the lining of the various organs. Most often, mesothelioma affects the lining tissue surrounding the lungs (pleura), but it can also affect the abdominal cavity (peritoneum) or other tissues. Unfortunately, there are no effective early-stage symptoms, making early diagnosis of mesothelioma especially important for patients and their families. When diagnosed with mesothelioma, symptoms may include persistent coughing with no apparent cause, chest pain that intensifies with exercise, and weight loss or gain.
Treatment of mesothelioma varies depending on the different types of mesothelioma and its location. Pleural mesothelioma can be treated with surgery, radiation therapy or a combination of both. Chemotherapy uses medication to kill mesothelioma cells and improve overall health. Some drugs are used to treat both pleural and peritoneal mesothelioma, while others only work to treat peritoneal mesothelioma and no other type. Some drugs have been proven to be particularly effective at improving conditions in which the mesothelioma manifests itself, such as fluid retention and inflammation of the abdominal cavity. New treatments using stem cells and gene therapy hold an experimental importance in the treatment of mesothelioma, although these treatments have not progressed to the point where clinical trials are possible.
Mesothelioma can affect anyone, regardless of age, gender or location. In its early stages, mesothelioma can be difficult to diagnose, as some symptoms are similar to those of other, less serious illnesses. Mesothelioma is more common in smokers than in non-smokers, and those who have a history of asbestos exposure are more likely to develop the disease. The main cause of mesothelioma is exposure to asbestos, although exposure to other substances, including radon gas and chemicals such as benzene, are also considered to increase a person’s risk of developing mesothelioma. Whether or not someone has been exposed to asbestos is not always clear, as many people who were exposed to this substance are still alive.
Because mesothelioma often results from exposure to asbestos, the disease may be related to the increased risk of developing pleural mesothelioma after some years of asbestos exposure. This is true for both men and women. Pleural mesothelioma is the disease that shows up around the lungs and chest, generally in the lining of the chest cavity. Some mesothelioma cases have also been linked to the development of peritoneal mesothelioma, which affects the lining of the abdomen and the organs that produce bile. The increased risk of developing mesothelioma in people with a family history of the disease seems to be hereditary in nature.
Treatment of mesothelioma usually involves a combination of surgery and chemotherapy. Surgery aims to remove the affected tissue, while chemotherapy uses drugs to kill cancer cells. Sometimes both surgery and chemotherapy are required to completely eliminate the cancer. The latest methods of treatment include using targeted drugs that target the cancerous cells, as well as removing the lining of the lung or the cavity around the affected organ. Chemotherapy may also use a combination of medications and surgery to control symptoms and promote healing.