Mesothelioma is the most common form of cancer caused by exposure to asbestos. While it is not immediately apparent to the individual that they have been exposed to asbestos, mesothelioma often results in a lump that has fluid filled cavities and a slow growth process. Once cancer has developed, treatment options can range from surgical removal of the existing cancerous cells to therapeutic approaches using drugs and radiation therapy to attempt to control further cell proliferation. Most asbestos related mesothelioma cancers are the result of occupational exposure to the mineral. Mesothelioma leads to the formation of fluid-filled sacs either within the lungs or elsewhere in the body, mesothelioma causes swelling of the surrounding organs, and may also cause a tumor or group of tumors.
Most mesothelioma cases produced by asbestos exposure are caused by repetitive, long term exposure to asbestos. Asbestos, due to its chemical composition, was often found in a wide variety of products including ceiling tiles, roof shingles, flooring, insulation, brake linings, pipe insulation, and flashings. It was most commonly used in construction and building projects, but was also found in a variety of consumer products such as clothing and bathing suits. When asbestos is disturbed or otherwise exposed to the air, it releases asbestos into the air, which can then be breathed by humans and other organisms. Because of this lung cancer causing agent’s link to numerous different health problems, including mesothelioma, many companies were often sued for exposing their workers to asbestos and for negligence in their safety measures.
Mesothelioma is a slow growing cancer and typically takes approximately ten to twenty years to develop. While it can take an additional twenty years or more to develop symptoms, mesothelioma causes generally stem from abnormal cells that are rapidly dividing. These cells are characterized by thickening and sometimes complete sealing of the internal organs such as the lungs and the abdomen. These abnormal cells, when allowed to continue to divide, produce abnormal mesothelioma fibers, which can then migrate to the different parts of the body and cause symptoms such as pleural effusions, peritoneal mesothelioma, pericardial mesothelioma, and periculoid mesothelioma.
Pleural mesothelioma is the most common form of this disease and develops in the lining that surrounds the heart. This lining is made up of a number of different types of cells, including fibroblasts, chondroitin, and collagen. These mesothelioma fibers then begin to irritate the walls of the heart, causing pain and swelling. Like other forms of mesothelioma, symptoms may include chest pain, abnormal heart rhythms, irregular heart beat, increased pressure in the chest, nausea, and vomiting.
Pericardial mesothelioma is a more uncommon type of mesothelioma and develops in the lining that surrounds the heart, or in some cases, the chest cavity. It is caused when the cells that line the heart become abnormal because of exposure to asbestos fibers. Symptoms may include shortness of breath, heart palpitations, pain in the abdomen, fever, fatigue, chest pain, coughing, and chest congestion. Diagnosis is made through a physical examination and the use of X-rays, CT scans, or an ultrasound. Treatment includes medication, surgery, and physical therapy.
While the precise cause of mesothelioma is not known, there are many factors that can increase the risk of developing mesothelioma. Factors that have been identified are both workplace and environmental in nature. Mesothelioma is the disease of choice for people who have worked with asbestos, as well as people who have been exposed to large amounts of the mineral through exposure to certain types of building materials. The best way to avoid the risk of developing mesothelioma is to be aware of the dangers of asbestos, and to take steps to avoid prolonged exposure to the mineral.