How Is Mesothelioma Diagnosed?
Malignant mesothelioma is a kind of disease that occurs mainly in the thick protective layer of cells that cover most of your internal organs (lined by your mesothelioma). It affects the lining of the lungs, the abdomen, the heart and the chest wall. Malignant mesothelioma cancer is also able to affect the lining of the stomach and the small intestine as well as the blood and the lymphatic system of the body. Malignant mesothelioma treatment is generally successful, however, for most patients, a full recovery is not possible.
Most doctors divide malignant mesothelioma in four categories based on the location of the mesothelioma. The four types are pleural mesothelioma, which affects the lining of the chest cavity, peritoneal mesothelioma, which affects the lining of the abdominal cavity and pericardial mesothelioma, which affects the lining of the heart. As compared to other forms of cancer, mesothelioma treatment for each type depends on the location of the mesothelioma. Treatment for peritoneal mesothelioma usually involves removing the tumor, while removing the cancer from the peritoneal lining is called percutaneous resection and the treatment for pericardial mesothelioma may require surgery, chemotherapy or radiation therapy.
There are a number of potential causes of this disease. The most common cause is exposure to asbestos, as it has been found in a majority of mesothelioma cases. Although asbestos use is banned in many countries, some construction materials and older homes still contain this material. Exposure to asbestos fibers can occur when a person works with this material on a regular basis, such as building an apartment, remodeling a home or working on a building or remodeling an office building. When asbestos fibers are inhaled, they can go directly into the lungs and cause mesothelioma.
Mesothelioma symptoms will depend on the location of the mesothelioma as well as the age of the person who has the cancer. The majority of cases occur in elderly people, although it can also occur in young children. Some mesothelioma symptoms include abdominal pain, unexplained weight loss, inability to control body temperature, fever, shortness of breath, coughing, chest pain, nausea and fatigue. Because mesothelioma often affects the chest area, symptoms of pleural mesothelioma are often confused with those of lung cancer. Because the two diseases are so similar, many doctors are reluctant to consider mesothelioma as a possible cause of death unless the patient has also presented with cancer of the lung or other parts of the chest.
There are three stages of mesothelioma: pleural, peritoneal and pericardial. Each stage of this disease has its own set of symptoms and treatments, and prognosis varies with each stage. Patients with only the first stage of mesothelioma have a poor prognosis, because the cancer has not spread to other areas of the body yet; however, if the disease has spread to other parts of the body, patients have a better chance of improving their health and living longer.
There are several ways to determine whether asbestos exposure has caused mesothelioma. One way is to look at the patient’s medical history, looking for a history of exposure to asbestos. Another is to perform a PSA test, looking for an increased level in a patient’s blood. A third way to assess exposure is through a chest x-ray. The best way to diagnosis the disease is to perform a biopsy, removing a sample of the patient’s mesothelioma cells to be studied under the microscope.