Mesothelioma |Classification, Symptoms, Diagnose, Prognosis, and Treatment
What is Mesothelioma?
Mesothelioma is rare cancer that develops in the thin lining of tissues that cover the heart, lungs, and abdomen. It is an aggressive form of cancer that results from exposure to asbestos. At the moment there is no cure and the survival rate is very poor. Increased exposure to asbestos increases the risk factor. A small percentage of people may acquire this after getting infected with the simian-40 virus. In some people, the cause may also be genetic.
Mesothelium is the name given to the tissue lining the heart, lungs, and abdomen. This layer produces lubricating fluids that enable organs to rub against each other without causing any damage by friction. The tumors that originate in these layers are called mesothelioma. There are two kinds of mesothelioma: benign tumors and malignant mesothelioma. Benign tumors are often harmless and can be surgically removed. Cancerous tumors are called malignant mesothelioma and can occur in four parts of the body: in the chest, abdomen, around the heart and in the layer covering the testicles. Malignant mesothelioma can be further categorized into three types depending on the arrangement of cancerous cells: epithelioid, sarcomata’s and mixed (also called biphasic) mesothelioma.
Epithelioid mesothelioma is the most common form amongst all other types. Biphasic mesothelioma is also common after epithelioid mesothelioma. Sarcomata’s mesothelioma is the most uncommon and so have not been studied as much.
Symptoms of Mesothelioma
Symptoms of pleural mesothelioma (occurring in the lungs) include shortness of breath, coughs, pain when breathing, blood in the sputum etc. If a person experiences these symptoms they should visit a physician immediately. Symptoms of peritoneal mesothelioma (occurring in the abdomen) include abdominal pain, the buildup of fluid, difficulty with bowel movement etc. Symptoms of pericardial mesothelioma are harder to distinguish but can present in the form of heart failure, cardiac tamponade etc. A person experiencing one or more of these symptoms must visit a doctor immediately.
Diagnosis of Mesothelioma
Mesotheliomas can be diagnosed by imaging tests, but the biopsy (in which a tissue sample is taken from the affected area and then tested for the presence of cancerous cells) has to be done before further confirmation can be given. Imaging tests include an X-ray, CT scan or an MRI scan. Fluid from these linings is also often tested to check for the presence of cancerous tissue.
As mentioned above, the survival rate for mesotheliomas is very poor. Epithelioid mesotheliomas have the best survival rates. Then again, a lot depends on what stage the cancer is diagnosed at. Earlier stages have a higher survival rate and at end stage, the survival rate is very, very low. Survival rates also depend on the person who is affected: some people are healthier and can survive longer.
Treatment for mesotheliomas includes surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, and in some cases immunotherapy. Surgical treatments have so far been unsuccessful and disheartening. However, when combined with chemotherapy and radiation; surgery has been successful. Radiation therapy can be given after some of the tumors has been surgically removed, or alongside chemotherapy. Radiation therapy on its own is often unsuccessful because the radiation dose needed to kill all cancer cells is intolerable to humans. Chemotherapy is the only treatment that provides promising results for survival against mesotheliomas. Immunotherapy has been used in very rare cases as the side effects are detrimental and severe. Still, some treatments using immunotherapy has been successful.
Cancers often recur (come back) so surviving is difficult. In addition to the cancer being stressful to the body, the treatments also take a toll on the body. Many people stop treatment when it gets too hard to continue. In order to minimize the risk of developing mesothelioma, we must avoid exposure to asbestos and remain under a doctor’s guidance if any of the symptoms develop.