What is Mesothelioma?

Mesothelioma is a rare form of cancer that can take up to 50 years to develop. This is caused when an individual has been exposed to asbestos. It will form in the linings of the lungs, heart, chest and even in the abdomen.


Understanding Mesothelioma

You may not know that your body has a thin membrane that covers and even provides lubrication to different cavities within the body. This membrane is called the mesothelium. Exposure to asbestos can lead to cancer in this lining, which is known as mesothelioma.

Four Types of Mesothelioma

Icons Pleural Methelioma Blue

Pleural Mesothelioma

If cancer has developed in the lining of the lungs then it is pleural mesothelioma. This form of mesothelioma accounts for about 75 percent of the diagnosed cases. This is because many times the asbestos fibers are inhaled and become stuck in the lining of the lungs.

Icons Peritoneal Mesothelioma blue

Peritoneal Mesothelioma

When the cancer is found in the lining of the abdomen this is called peritoneal mesothelioma. This type of mesothelioma is also caused by breathing in asbestos fibers and accounts for around 20% of the diagnoses.

Icons Pericardial Mesothelioma Blue

Pericardial Mesothelioma

The rarest type of mesothelioma is a cancer of the mesothelium surrounding the heart – known as pericardial mesothelioma. Researchers are still trying to figure out how this form develops, most diagnoses happen after the patient has passed away.

Testicular Mesothelioma

When cancer forms in the lining of the testicles, also known as the tunica vaginalis, then it is called testicular mesothelioma. Patients with testicular mesothelioma have a more optimistic life expectancy than other forms though it shows a high rate of reoccurance.


Symptoms of Mesothelioma

Mesothelioma is a very difficult type of cancer to diagnose. This makes knowing the symptoms of mesothelioma challenging since they so closely mirror other common illnesses and sicknesses. However, each type of mesothelioma does have some signs and symptoms that you can look out for:

Pleural

  • Effusions (Fluid)
  • Weight Loss
  • Shortness of Breath
  • Persistent Dry Cough
  • Persistent Chest Pain
  • Difficulty Swallowing
  • General Fatigue

Peritoneal

  • Abdominal Pain
  • Weight Loss
  • Nausea / Vomiting
  • Bowel Irregularity
  • General Fatigue
  • Seizures (10 percent of patients)
  • Ascites (Fluid)

Pericardial

  • Difficulty Breathing
  • Chest Pain
  • General Fatigue
  • Weight Loss
  • Irregular Heartbeat
  • Fever
  • Heart Murmurs

Testicular

  • Fluid buildup in the scrotum
  • Testicular pain
  • The growth of a mass.

Different Causes and Risk Factors

icons Causes And Exposure

Causes and Exposure

The cause of mesothelioma is almost always due to exposure to asbestos – a naturally occurring mineral. Throughout the 20th century, it became very popular because it was extremely resistant to heat and was great for insulating various types of materials. It was used for a number of different things ranging from brake pads in cars to the insulation used in commercial and residential buildings and homes. The United States Armed Forces also made common use of this material.

Even after the products hazardous nature was discovered, companies continued to use asbestos in their products. Because of this, many workers were exposed to asbestos and began to suffer health complications. Common products that used asbestos include cement boards, cement walls, ceiling tiles, pipe insulation, joint compounds, textiles or protective clothing (specifically for heat resistance), car brake pads, and clutches. Navy vessels also made heavy use of asbestos insulation, alongside several other military products.

When asbestos fibers are inhaled or ingested and taken into the body, they can become stuck in the mesothelium – the lining that surrounds both the pleura and the peritoneum. It is difficult for your body to get rid of these fibers.

Mesothelioma has a latency period of 10-50 years, meaning you are still at risk of developing mesothelioma years after exposure to asbestos. If you know that you or a loved one was exposed to asbestos, then it is even more imperative to stay on top of your health. Knowing the warning signs can help you and your physician catch symptoms early. The earlier the diagnosis, the better your prognosis.

Fibers that become stuck in the pleura are what can cause pleural mesothelioma. Fibers that become stuck around the stomach or abdomen – the peritoneum – is what can lead to peritoneal mesothelioma. Although rare, fibers can also make their way to the pericardial tissue around your heart causing pericardial mesothelioma or the tunica vaginalis, leading to testicular mesothelioma.

Are You At Risk

Are You at Risk?

There are a lot of people that may have been exposed to asbestos. This could include individuals that worked in factories, military veterans, people that made and moved insulation and even those who were involved with building ships.

Believe it or not, the family members of those individuals that may have brought these fibers home on their clothing may also be at risk. This is called secondary exposure.

You can still be exposed to mesothelioma today. Older buildings from the 1980s may have
asbestos in several materials. It is crucial to have older buildings and products tested to ensure
that no asbestos is present.

Many are also surprised to learn that asbestos is not a manmade material. These fibers can also
be found in nature. Anyone living near an asbestos deposit is at risk, as they can be exposed to
the mineral through groundwater or by breathing the dust from mining operations.


Mesothelioma and Veterans

While mesothelioma is a fairly rare disease, it does affect veterans from all branches of
military service: Air Force, Army, Coast Guard, Marines, and Navy. Because of the popularity of
asbestos and the long latency period of mesothelioma, veterans who served our country
anywhere between the 1930s and the 1980s are only known to receive diagnoses.

Navy veterans are the most at risk, especially if they worked in shipyards or served on aircraft
carriers, battleships, destroyers, submarines, and/or warships from WWII through the
Vietnam War. These Navy sailors were exposed to high concentrations of asbestos. The
the material was common throughout ships, with the heaviest concentrations in the boiler
rooms, engine rooms, and sleeping quarters.

If you or a loved one served in the Brooklyn Navy Yard, Hunters Point Naval Shipyard, the
Long Beach Naval Shipyard, or the Norfolk Navy Shipyard, then you are also at a high risk for
mesothelioma. If you are concerned that you may have been exposed, you should speak with
your doctor immediately and start to keep an eye out for any symptoms.
VA Benefits and financial assistance have been set aside to help any veterans who are
diagnosed with complications from asbestos, including mesothelioma.


Mesothelioma Specialists

If you are diagnosed with mesothelioma, you will need to find a mesothelioma doctor that specializes in treating this type of cancer. Finding a normal doctor or even an oncologist is not going to be the best option. Mesothelioma is very rare and that means there isn’t as much knowledge or experience in dealing with this form of cancer. There are specialists that can provide you with much better care. These specialists are rare because there are only around 3,000 mesothelioma diagnosis each year. A specialist may be able to help improve your prognosis and even extend your life expectancy.

Keep in mind that not all specialists treat the same type of mesothelioma. The earlier you discover a diagnosis, the better chance you have of connecting to a specialist who can help.

You can still be exposed to mesothelioma today. Older buildings from the 1980s may have asbestos in several materials. It is crucial to have older buildings and products tested to ensure that no asbestos is present.

Many are also surprised to learn that asbestos is not a manmade material. These fibers can also be found in nature. Anyone living near an asbestos deposit is at risk, as they can be exposed to the mineral through groundwater or by breathing the dust from mining operations.


Diagnosis

Most individuals that have been diagnosed with this type of cancer will have symptoms that are just like pneumonia – exhibiting a lot of coughing. Symptoms can appear to come out of nowhere since the latency period for mesothelioma is between 20 – 50 years. When you have continual symptoms, the doctor will often ask for tests that include medical images so that they can look for different signs that cancer may be the cause.

Some of the different tests that may be used will include X-Rays, PET Scans, and even CT Scans. Blood tests are generally carried out after these types of tests to see if there are any cancer proteins that can be found in the blood.

If the doctor believes that he or she needs to confirm that there is cancer, they may take a piece of the tumor from your body. This is called a biopsy. Keep in mind that this is generally considered to be a serious surgery and will mean that you may be in the hospital for a few days.

Conducting the biopsy helps to determine the cell type of cancer. There are three main cell variations associated with mesothelioma. They are epithelioid, sarcomatoid and biphasic. Getting these results will help the doctor identify the type of cancer that you have so that they are able to give you the best care.


Stages of Mesothelioma

After the doctor has determined that they are actually dealing with mesothelioma they will need to identify exactly what stage it is in. This will also help them identify what type of treatment will be the best for you. There are four types of mesothelioma stages. Stage 1 is the earliest and least severe and stage 4 is the most progressed.

Stage 1 – It is often difficult to reach a diagnosis at this stage. There is no involvement from lymph nodes and the cancer is localized to its point of origin.

Stage 2 – Mesothelioma is still confined to the same point of origin as it is in stage 1. There are times when there could be regional lymph nodes affected. There will be a number of different options related to treatment at this point. Surgery may still even be carried out.

Stage 3 – This is when cancer has spread beyond the original point of origin and other lymph nodes are becoming affected. It is still possible for surgery to be carried out at this point, although less likely.

Stage 4 – Lymph nodes and other organs are going to be affected by cancer at this point. Organ failure is a strong possibility at this point. When cancer has reached this stage there are not going to be as many treatment options. Seeing a specialist is urgent at this stage.

Some forms of mesothelioma and lung cancer rely on the TNM system in regards to discussing staging. “T” refers to the Tumor, specifically it’s size and location. “N” stands for Nodes, particularly whether your lymph nodes have been infected. “M” is for Metastasis, which indicates whether your cancer has spread to other organs. Numbers and letters alongside these three main abbreviations indicate the staging of your cancer.

The specialist is going to make recommendations about what type of treatment is needed to remove cancer based on what stage it is in. There are different ways to measure the stages and your doctor will make recommendations based on what type of system they use. You should always think about getting a second opinion from specialists.


Mesothelioma Treatment Options

What you must remember is that treatment is not going to be the same for everyone. The doctor will make recommendations based on the type of cancer cells, the stage it is in and even the history of the patient.

Surgery – When it comes to extending the amount of time you live, you will see this is the only option. It will be available if the cancer is in stages one or two.

Chemotherapy – When this medication is pushed through your bloodstream, the cancer can be killed, or the progression can be slowed.

Radiation – The cancer cells may be killed, and new cells may not grow if radiation is used on the areas that are affected.

Multimodal – Different treatment options are used together such as surgery or chemotherapy.

Clinical Trials – There are often different types of treatments that are being examined and studied. This may be an option for some patients.

Alternative Treatment Methods – Many patients are going to find relief and success through treatment options such as yoga, acupuncture and even different forms of meditation.

Mesothelioma research continues to produce significant breakthroughs for treatment protocols and improving a patient’s quality of life. It’s crucial to ensure that your specialist is up to date with the latest mesothelioma research and information so that they can provide the best treatment for your specific case.


Prognosis

When you hear the term prognosis you can expect to learn about the amount of time you will live as well as survival rates. Your mesothelioma prognosis can be determined by looking at the path the specialist thinks your cancer will take and how it is going to affect you in the future.

Improving Your Prognosis

  1. Find a Specialist – When you find a specialist, they will know how to treat this rare type of cancer.
  2. Second Opinions – Take the time to get a second opinion to review each and every one of your treatment options.
  3. Explore Treatments – Figure out what type of treatment is going to work the best for you. Not all cancer is the same and every patient is different.
  4. Lifestyle – If you are living a healthy lifestyle you will be better able to handle treatments that are more aggressive.
  5. Joining Clinical Trials – Always speak with a specialist about any clinical trials that are available. This will open the door to treatment options that you might not have available to you otherwise.

Financial Assistance and Legal Aid

Anytime a medical condition is diagnosed, one of the many conversation topics most patients will need to consider is how any treatment will be paid for. Few insurances will handle all expenses, and treatment and travel costs can build up— not to mention the missed wages.

Luckily, many forms of financial assistance are available to patients. Immediate forms of assistance will vary by treatment facility and organizations, so it’s worth asking around and researching what your local and national organizations can do to help.

Another option is to sign up for a free consultation with a mesothelioma lawyer. Since mesothelioma is almost always traced back to asbestos exposure, you are entitled to reimbursement. These claims can be filed in two different ways: against the asbestos trust funds set up by companies who filed bankruptcy to avoid lawsuits or against companies that are not protected by Chapter 11.

Manufacturers who used asbestos in their products worked hard to keep the dangers of asbestos hidden, putting all of their workers, the workers’ families, and the general public at risk. They greedily profited from the benefits of asbestos in the process.

Pursuing legal options against those responsible for asbestos exposure can help offset many of the treatment costs and living expenses that can otherwise weigh heavily on a patient and their family. It also holds the companies accountable, forcing them to face the consequences of their greed.

The attorney who contacts you can also help point you to other resources regarding financial aid and mesothelioma. If you are interested, fill out the Free Consultation form on this webpage.

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