Mesothelioma is a very rare and aggressive form of cancer, which affects the membrane lining of the abdomen and the lungs. This form of cancer is caused by exposure to asbestos.
What is Asbestos?
Asbestos is a material that can be woven into fabric. Because of its strength, it was used to make ceiling material, roofing shingles, floor tiles, cement compounds, textile products, and automotive parts. While it is very durable, it is also microscopic. Beginning in the late 1970’s, the use of asbestos began to decline, as people began to realize that it posed a health risk. Since then, it has been determined to be a carcinogen. Because the asbestos fibers are so small, they can easily be inhaled, and the fibers can cling to the respiratory system. This includes the lungs and inner cavity tissue. When these rigid fibers are lodged in the respiratory system, they are not able to be broken down or expelled when you exhale. If the asbestos fibers sit in your respiratory system too long, it can cause mesothelioma. Asbestos is the only known cause of this type of cancer.
Symptoms of Mesothelioma
The symptoms of mesothelioma depend on where the cancer occurs. There are two forms of the cancer, each causing different symptoms.
This form of the cancer affects the tissue around the lungs, and causes the following symptoms:
Shortness of breath
Chest pain under the rib cage
Unexplained weight loss
Unusual lumps of tissue on the chest, under the skin
This form of the cancer affects the tissue in the abdomen, and causes the following symptoms:
Unexplained weight loss
Lumps of tissue in the abdomen
If you have any symptoms that indicate that you may have mesothelioma, your doctor will conduct a physical exam, checking for any lumps or unusual signs. Your doctor will likely order a chest x-ray and a CT scan of the abdomen. Both of these tests will show any abnormalities caused by mesothelioma. Your doctor may also schedule a biopsy. This is a procedure where a small portion of the tissue is removed to be examined in the lab, in order to determine whether or not you have mesothelioma.
Treatment for mesothelioma depends on what stage it was caught, and its location. Most people do not get diagnosed until their cancer is advanced, and there is not much hope for treatment. If your cancer is in the early stages, it can be treated with chemotherapy, radiation, or surgery. Each case is different, and treatment would depend on the patient.
Mesothelioma is a very serious and aggressive cancer. Luckily, however, asbestos is no longer being used. If a building does contain asbestos, it is removed using certain safety standards, ensuring the health of the removal team as well as those who inhabit the building.