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What is Mesothelioma?
Mesothelioma or more precisely
malignant mesothelioma is a rare form of cancer that develops from cells of the
which is the protective lining that covers many of the internal organs of
Mesothelioma is most commonly caused by exposure to asbestos.
The most common anatomical site for mesothelioma is the pleura
(which is the outer lining of the lungs) and internal chest wall
but it can also arise independent peritoneum
(which is the lining of the abdominal cavity); the pericardium
(which is the sack that surrounds the heart); or the tunica vaginalis
(a sac that surrounds the ***)
Most people who develop mesothelioma have worked in jobs where they inhaled
or ingested asbestos fibers;
or were exposed to airborne asbestos dust and fibers
in other ways. Washing clothes of a family member
who worked with asbestos also creates a risk for developing mesothelioma.
Unlike lung cancer, there seems to be no association between mesothelioma
and tobacco smoking but smoking greatly increases the risk of other asbestos
Signs and symptoms of mesothelioma include shortness of breath due to
(which is the fluid between the lung and the chest wall); chest wall pain and
constitutional signs such as
unexplained weight loss. The diagnosis may be suspected
based on chest x-ray and CT scan findings
but must be confirmed either by examining serous effusion cytology or
with the biopsy
which is removing a sample and the suspicious tissue. A thoracoscopy
which is inserting a tube with a camera into the chest
can be used to acquire biopsy material and allows the introduction of
such as talc to obliterate the pleural space which is a procedure called
preventing more fluid from accumulating and pressing on the lung.
Despite treatment with chemotherapy, radiation therapy or sometimes surgery,
mesothelioma carries a poor prognosis. Research about screening tests for the early detection of mesothelioma is ongoing.