An Overview of Mesothelioma

Mesothelioma is a rare cancer that afflicts the mesothelium, the thin tissue that lines organs. Pleural mesothelioma attacks the tissue around the lungs and chest, peritoneal mesothelioma attacks abdominal tissue, pericardial mesothelioma affects the tissue around the heart and mesothelioma of the tunica vaginalis affects the tissue covering the testicles. Mesothelioma is almost always caused by exposure to asbestos. It can lie dormant for decades before showing symptoms. Here are some things you need to know about mesothelioma:

What Causes Mesothelioma

According to Shrader & Associates, a law firm that specializes in mesothelioma litigation, when asbestos is disturbed, it releases tiny fibers into the air. When you breathe in these fibers, they become trapped in tissue, causing irritation, inflammation and scarring. Over time, these injuries can develop into mesothelioma. People most at risk of contracting mesothelioma work in mines, on ships, on construction sites, in factories and in other places where they are exposed to asbestos on a continual basis. Those who live with asbestos workers are also at risk, as asbestos particles can be brought home in clothing and hair and on the skin.

Symptoms of Mesothelioma

Symptoms of mesothelioma include difficulty breathing or shortness of breath, unexpected weight loss, painful and persistent coughing, pain in the chest or abdomen, unusual tissue lumps in the chest or abdomen, anemia, fever or problems with blood clotting.

Diagnosing Mesothelioma

Mesothelioma can be difficult to diagnose because its symptoms mimic those of other diseases. First your doctor needs to know your medical history and history of your exposure to asbestos. Next, a general physical exam discloses obvious signs and symptoms. If mesothelioma is suspected, imaging tests are next. These might include a chest x-ray, a computed tomography (CT) scan, an echocardiogram, a positron emission tomography (PET) scan or a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan. Blood tests do not detect the disease, but may indicate how well your organs are working and how extensive the disease might be. The only way to definitively diagnose mesothelioma is by biopsy. This might be a needle biopsy, in which a long needle is inserted into the chest to remove sample tissue, an endoscopic biopsy, during which an instrument with an optic lens and a tool for removing tissue is inserted into the body, or an open surgical biopsy, in which an incision is made in the chest or abdomen to remove tissue.

Treating Mesothelioma

The treatment for mesothelioma is based on the extent of the disease. If the mesothelioma is detected at an early stage, surgery is attempted to remove the cancerous tissue. This is often followed by chemotherapy or radiation therapy to kill any remaining cancerous cells. If the disease is at an advanced stage, a combination of surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy may be prescribed to prolong life and reduce discomfort and pain. Sometimes you may have an opportunity to take part in clinical trials of new treatments for mesothelioma. If you are diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma, besides educating yourself as much as possible about the disease and considering various treatment options your doctor suggests, be sure to contact a lawyer who specializes in mesothelioma litigation. You may be entitled to compensation that can help you and your family in this difficult time.