The National Cancer Institute states that: “Malignant mesothelioma, a rare form of cancer (Lung cancer), is a disease in which cancer (malignant) cells are found in the sac lining the chest (the pleura), the lining of the abdominal cavity (the peritoneum) or the lining around the heart (the pericardium).
Most people with malignant mesothelioma have worked on jobs where they breathed asbestos (Asbestosis). Others have been exposed to asbestos in a household environment, often without knowing it.
An exposure of as little as one or two months can result in mesothelioma 30 or 40 years later. People exposed in the 1940s, 50s, 60s, and 70s are now being diagnosed with mesothelioma because of the long latency period of asbestos disease.
The early symptoms of mesothelioma are generally non-specific, and may lead to a delay in diagnosis. Sometimes resembling viral pneumonia, pleural mesothelioma patients may present with shortness of breath, chest pain and/or persistent cough; some patients show no symptoms at all. A chest x-ray may show a build-up of fluid or pleural effusion (discussed below). The right lung is affected 60% of the time, with involvement of both lungs being seen in approximately 5% of patients at the time of diagnosis. Less common symptoms of pleural mesothelioma include fever, night sweats and weight loss. Symptoms of peritoneal mesothelioma may include pain or swelling in the abdomen due to a build-up of fluid, nausea, weight loss, bowel obstruction, anemia or swelling of the feet.
Mesothelioma is diagnosed by pathological examination. Tissue is removed, put under the microscope, and a pathologist makes a definitive diagnosis, and issues a pathology report. This is the end of a process that usually begins with symptoms that send most people to the doctor: a fluid build-up or pleural effusions, shortness of breath, pain in the chest, or pain or swelling in the abdomen. The doctor may order an x-ray or CT scan of the chest or abdomen.
The treatment program for mesothelioma depends on many factors, including: the stage of the cancer, where the cancer is, how far the cancer has spread, how the cancer cells look under the microscope and the patient?s age and desires.