Most organs of the body are lined by a protective membrane known as the mesothelium. When cancer develops in this lining, it is referred to as Mesothelioma, and most cases begin in the chest cavity. Other places where this cancer is commonly seen include around the heart and in the abdomen. As with any type of cancer, the cells may damage adjacent tissues and may move to other parts of the body. Sadly, this disease isn’t typically caught in its early stages, and most patients die as a result of pneumonia or respiratory failure. Fortunately, this type of cancer is very rare.
Asbestos exposure remains the most common cause of mesothelioma, and many industries used this product in the past. When fibers from the asbestos were released into the air, they would be breathed in or swallowed. In fact, 75 percent of cases are linked to exposure to these minerals, and the worker isn’t the only person at risk. Those living with a person who worked around asbestos have a higher risk of developing mesothelioma. Other possible causes of this type of cancer include exposure to radiation, exposure to zeolites, genetics and exposure to the SV40 virus.
One reason it may be hard to link the development of mesothelioma to a specific cause is the cancer takes decades to develop and symptoms vary by person. Chest pain and shortness of breath have been reported, along with weight loss and facial swelling. Furthermore, when the cancer develops in or spreads to the abdominal cavity, the person may notice they have a fever, the abdomen may swell or they may suffer from a bowel obstruction. These are only a few of the symptoms one may experience when they have this type of cancer.
Doctors take many factors into consideration when determining the proper treatment for mesothelioma. However, as the disease is already advanced in most patients before it is detected, the odds of long-term survival are significantly diminished. Often, the focus is on reducing the symptoms and keeping the patient as comfortable as possible. Anyone who is experiencing symptoms that may be related to mesothelioma should see a doctor immediately. This is an aggressive cancer, thus early treatment is essential.