Mesothelioma Information Guidebook
WHAT IS MESOTHELIOMA?
Malignant Mesothelioma is a rare cancer, caused by exposure to asbestos fibers. Asbestos is the general term for a group of minerals characterized by tiny thin fibers, which are easily inhaled. Asbestos fibers can become lodged in the lining of the chest wall and abdomen, defeating the body’s normal defenses and over time causing the development of cancer cells.
Mesothelioma can develop in the lining of the lungs, the abdomen, the pericardium surrounding the heart, and even the lining surrounding the testes. Mesothelioma can be caused by even a very small asbestos exposure, and has been known to develop in the children of workers who brought home asbestos fibers on their clothing. Mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases may develop 50 or more years following initial exposure.
What are the Symptoms of Mesothelioma?
Mesothelioma of the lung lining is known as pleural mesothelioma. Pleural mesothelioma symptoms may include:
- Painful, persistent cough
- Chest pain, particularly under the rib cage
- Lumps under the skin of your chest
- Unexplained weight loss
- Shortness of breath
Mesothelioma of the abdominal lining is referred to as peritoneal mesothelioma. Peritoneal mesothelioma symptoms may include:
- Lumps under the skin of the abdomen
- Abdominal pain
- Abdominal swelling
- Unexplained weight loss
Mesothelioma in other areas of the body may present itself in other ways, depending on the area affected.
How is Mesothelioma Diagnosed?
Mesothelioma diagnosis usually begins with a physical examination, including lung function tests, and a patient history of asbestos exposure. Following a physical exam, doctors often take blood tests to determine the levels of oxygen and carbon dioxide in your blood. If these initial findings are abnormal, doctors will usually order a chest x-ray and CT scan. If these tests identify abnormalities, mesothelioma can be definitively diagnosed through a biopsy – an invasive procedure in which a doctor takes a small tissue sample of lung or other affected tissue.
How is Mesothelioma Treated?
Conventional treatments for mesothelioma consist of chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and surgical options. Surgery may consist of drastic procedures to remove a lung and the entire surrounding lining, or less extreme measures designed to improve the quality of life of the patient. Often, surgery to remove some or all of the affected area is combined with radiation and chemotherapy in an attempt to target any remaining mesothelioma cells.
What is the Prognosis for Mesothelioma Victims?
Unfortunately, conventional cancer treatments have not been tremendously successful in curing mesothelioma patients. Because symptoms often do not develop until late stage disease has developed, the overall five year survival rate for mesothelioma is very low, at just 8%. Overall chances of survival depend upon the stage and specific sub-type of illness. Doctors continue to work toward innovative treatments for malignant mesothelioma. Mesothelioma patients are often encouraged to sign up for clinical trials and experimental treatments such as immunotherapy, in which the patient’s immune system is used to attack the disease.
After Mesothelioma Diagnosis: Next Steps for Asbestos Victims
A serious diagnosis such as malignant mesothelioma can be devastating. Employers, asbestos product manufacturers, and other companies have been held legally responsible for knowingly exposing the public to this toxic substance, with fatal consequences. If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with mesothelioma, you may be eligible for compensation. Contact an experienced asbestos litigation firm today, to discuss your options.