Aside from patients and families, there are many of us who search for mesothelioma information and have questions we would like answered. Here are 10 of the most often asked questions with answers for those seeking mesothelioma information.
What is the mesothelium?
The mesothelium is a membrane that completely covers and protects each of the internal organs of the body. This membrane is made up of two layers of cells, one layer surrounds the organ while the other forms a sac around it. The mesothelium produces lubricating fluid which is released between these layers, allowing the moving organs such as the heart and lungs to glide easily against adjacent surfaces.
What is mesothelioma?
Mesothelioma is a form of cancer that attacks the mesothelium membrane, and is caused by earlier exposure to asbestos particles. When mesothelioma strikes, cells of the mesothelium become abnormal and divide without control, and malignant cells develop in the mesothelium which can metastasize from their original site to invade and damage nearby tissues and organs within the body. Typically, mesothelioma will begin in the pleura or peritoneum.. the abdominal cavity or lungs.
How common is mesothelioma?
Mesothelioma is a relatively rare form of cancer, even though reported incidence figures show a steady increase over the past 20 years or so. Each year approximately 2,000 new cases of mesothelioma are diagnosed in the United States alone. Mesothelioma affects men more so than women and the risk increases with age, but mesothelioma can occur in either sex and at any age.
What are the causes of mesothelioma?
At least 90% of mesotheliomas can be linked to exposure to asbestos, although usually the exposure will have taken place many years before the cancer becomes apparent. It is known that even very low levels of exposure to asbestos can lead to the development of mesothelioma, so it is possible that some patients may not have had any known contact with asbestos but may still have breathed in asbestos fibres without realizing it. Exposure to certain chemicals and radiation has also been linked to mesothelioma, and a small number of mesotheliomas have been linked to a type of radiation called thorium dioxide(thorotast). This was used in some x-rays up until the 1950’s. There is no evidence linking mesotheliomas with cigarette smoking
How is mesothelioma diagnosed?
The symptoms of mesothelioma are often difficult to diagnose being very similar to the symptoms displayed in other conditions including asbestosis. The diagnosis of mesothelioma will require a review of the patient’s medical history, including past history of asbestos exposure. A complete physical examination will be performed and x-rays of the chest and abdomen obtained. A CT scan or MRI may also prove useful in the diagnosis of mesothelioma.
Can mesothelioma be treated?
Treatment for mesothelioma varies depending on the location of the cancer, to what extent the mesothelioma has developed, and the patient’s age and general condition. The options for mesothelioma treatment include surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy.
Is there a cure for mesothelioma?
The only treatment offering any hope of a cure for mesothelioma is an operation to remove the tumour surgically. Unfortunately because mesothelioma is so difficult to diagnose, it is often too far advanced for surgery to be carried out safely.
Are there new treatments available for mesothelioma?
The National Cancer Institute is currently sponsoring clinical trials in an effort to discover new treatments for mesothelioma along with improvement of the way current mesothelioma treatments are implemented. Before any new mesothelioma treatment can be recommended for general use, extensive clinical trials must be carried out to demonstrate that the mesothelioma treatment is safe for patients and will prove effective against the disease. Participation in these clinical trials can be an important treatment option for many patients suffering from the effects of mesothelioma.
What is the life expectancy for those diagnosed with mesothelioma?
The life expectancy for patients diagnosed with mesothelioma will vary depending on the type of cancer, where the tumor is, how far it has spread and the age and general health of the patient. Studies show average survival periods of between 8 and 14 months but it is not uncommon for patients to live for a few years following diagnosis of the condition.
So what is asbestosis?
Asbestosis is a non-cancerous chronic and potentially lethal inflammatory disease affecting the lungs, and is caused by exposure to asbestos. Asbestosis can cause permanent lung damage, increased risk of dangerous lung infections, and heart failure.
So those are the most often asked questions by those seeking mesothelioma information, and it is hoped the above answers have enlightened you.
Written by Trevor Taylor