Mesothelioma is a rare type of cancer that forms in the tissue called mesothelium. The mesothelium is a layer of tissue that protects the internal organs and is found in three areas of the body: the chest cavity, the abdominal cavity, and the heart sac.
Mesothelioma can develop in any of the following mesothelial tissues:
- Pleura: The tissue that lines the chest region and coats the outside of the lungs.
- Pericardium: The tissue that surrounds and sustains the heart within the chest cavity.
- Peritoneum: The tissue that lines the inside of the abdominal cavity and provides a protective outer layer for the internal organs.
Symptoms of Mesothelioma
Most individuals start to experience symptoms of mesothelioma once the disease is more advanced. Signs and symptoms of mesothelioma may include:
- Shortness of breath
- Pain underneath the rib cage
- Pain when coughing
- Swelling of the abdomen
- Unexplained weight loss
- Lumps in the chest or abdomen
Causes of Mesothelioma
The primary risk of developing mesothelioma is exposure to asbestos. Asbestos is a group of materials that were widely used in construction before the 1980s. Now, it is widely known for its serious risks to the health of individuals who have been exposed to it. If the fibers of asbestos have been inhaled or ingested, they can cause inflammation and lead to a number of serious health complications.
What to Expect at Your Appointment
During your appointment, your doctor will ask you to describe your symptoms and to provide your medical history. He/she may also want to perform a physical examination to check for signs of mesothelioma, such as lumps in the chest or abdomen.
If your doctor suspects mesothelioma, he/she will prescribe tests in order to make an accurate diagnosis. Some of these tests may include:
- Imaging tests: Imaging tests, such as an MRI or a CT scan produce detailed images of the chest and abdominal cavity. These images help physicians identify any physical abnormalities of the region of interest. Imaging tests can also help physicians understand the stage of the cancer and if it has spread to other areas of the body.
- Biopsy: Obtaining a biopsy, a small tissue sample, is the only way to make an accurate diagnosis. The biopsy is analyzed in a laboratory for cancerous cells, which provides either a positive or negative diagnosis.
Non-Surgical Treatments for Mesothelioma
Mesothelioma is an aggressive cancer. For this reason, surgical treatment of the condition is required. Treatment options will be determined based on the location of the cancer, the stage of the cancer, and the overall health of the patient. In some cases, radiation or chemotherapy may be recommended either before or after surgery.
Surgical Treatment for Mesothelioma and Post-Treatment
Surgical treatments that can be used to treat mesothelioma include:
- Pleurectomy: A pleurectomy procedure is performed to relieve symptoms of mesothelioma. During this surgery, part of the pleural tissue (the tissue located in the chest that surrounds and protects the lungs) is removed.
- Extrapleural Pneumonectomy: This procedure is performed to remove the cancerous portion of the tissue in the chest region. During this surgery, the entire affected lung, a portion of the pericardium (the tissue that surrounds the heart), and a portion of the diaphragm are removed.
These surgeries are considered complex surgeries and require a lengthy recovery period. Following surgery, patients will be required to stay in the hospital for monitoring for up to two weeks. This time can change depending on the extent of the surgery and the overall health of the patient.
Make an Appointment
For an appointment with a specialist, call 202-877-3627.