What Is Mesothelioma? Symptoms, Causes and Prevention

A uncommon form of cancer that attacks the lining of your chest and abdomen is called mesothelioma. You contract it by inhaling or ingesting asbestos, a small material that when it enters your body can lead to cancer.

It might be challenging to get the proper diagnosis because the symptoms of mesothelioma are similar to those of lung cancer and other illnesses. There are various treatments available, but sadly, nine out of 10 mesothelioma patients pass away within five years. Asbestos should be avoided in order to prevent this cancer.

Learn about mesothelioma and take preventative measures.

What Are the Types of Mesothelioma?

The most common types of mesothelioma are:

  • Pleural mesothelioma — in the lining of the chest wall
  • Peritoneal mesothelioma — in the lining of the abdomen (belly area)

Less often, mesothelioma affects the tissue surrounding the heart or testicles.

What Are the Symptoms of Mesothelioma?

Symptoms of mesothelioma in the chest area include:

  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Trouble swallowing
  • Hoarseness
  • Cough
  • Pain in the rib cage area
  • Lumps under the skin of the chest
  • Swelling of the face and arms

Symptoms of mesothelioma in the abdomen include:

  • Abdominal pain or swelling
  • Constipation
  • Nausea

Both kinds of mesothelioma can also cause: 

  • Fatigue
  • Weight loss
  • Loss of appetite

If you notice these symptoms, talk with your doctor to find out what’s causing them.

What Causes Mesothelioma?

Mesothelioma may only be acquired through asbestos inhalation or ingestion (or in rare cases, other types of fine dust). A naturally occurring material called asbestos breaks down into long, thin threads that are simple to breathe in. After entering your body, asbestos takes a long time—often 20 years or longer—to start causing mesothelioma.

Asbestos fibers travel to your lungs and collect there when you breathe it in. They can result in asbestosis, a persistent lung illness, or lung cancer if they remain inside your lungs.

The fibers can occasionally pierce the lung tissue and escape into the area around the lungs. Over time, they accumulate there after landing on the chest’s lining. The immune system of your body is overpowered by too many fibers, which leads to mesothelioma tumors in the chest lining.

Asbestos fibers can occasionally be swallowed by persons after they have inhaled them. The fibers can pass past the intestines’ walls and into the area surrounding them after you swallow them. On the intestinal lining in your belly, tumors might develop if too many fibers collect there.

How Do You Come in Contact with Asbestos?

Some industries employ asbestos to create heat- and fire-resistant goods due to its ability to act as an insulator. Most mesothelioma patients work (or have worked) in an industry that uses asbestos, such as:

  • Asbestos mining and milling
  • Shipbuilding
  • Oil refining
  • Pipefitting and plumbing
  • Insulation work
  • Manufacturing products with asbestos in them

The U.S. government now controls workplace asbestos levels after scientists realized how hazardous asbestos was in the 1970s. Although it’s considerably less frequent now, some people in occupations like building and demolition may still come into touch with it.

Additionally, asbestos exposure can occur from non-work-related activities like:

  • Washing clothes with asbestos fibers on them
  • Repairing car brakes (brakes may contain asbestos)
  • Doing home repairs involving insulation, flooring, wall treatments and tiling (these materials sometimes contain asbestos)

Am I at Risk?

You may be at risk for mesothelioma if you have ever worked in an environment where asbestos fibers were present in the air. It can take up to 20 years to manifest, and because older men are more likely to have been exposed to asbestos at work decades ago, the disease can take up to 20 years or longer to manifest.

Additionally, you run a larger risk if you’ve had repeated chest x-rays or have family members who have this cancer. Your chance of receiving secondhand exposure to asbestos can rise if you live with someone who has been exposed to it at work or at home.

Even if you’ve come into contact with asbestos, mesothelioma won’t necessarily develop as a result. Only a small percentage of asbestos exposure victims go on to acquire this malignancy.

But it’s crucial to be aware that asbestos can also cause more prevalent ailments, such as various cancers and lung disorders. Consult your doctor about your health risks if you believe you have come into contact with asbestos at work or at home.

How Can I Prevent Mesothelioma?

Keeping your asbestos exposure to a minimum is the only method to avoid developing this cancer. If you operate in an environment where asbestos is present, be sure to abide by all health and safety regulations at work, including wearing protective equipment.

Avoid performing tasks at home that could expose you to asbestos, such as replacing the brake linings on your automobile or performing house renovations that call for asbestos-containing products. Have your home’s asbestos levels checked before you begin any improvements if it was built prior to 1980.

How Will My Doctor Diagnose Mesothelioma?

To make a diagnosis, your doctor will start with a basic physical exam and ask you questions about your symptoms and health history. They’ll also ask about your work exposures to asbestos and other kinds of dust. 

Your physician will then perform tests to determine whether you have mesothelioma tumors and to learn more about the tumors. Testing might involve:

  • Chest x-rays
  • Biopsies (taking small samples of tissue to look at under a microscope)
  • Scans (like CT or MRI scans) to take detailed images of your internal organs

If your doctor tells you you have mesothelioma, the next step will be to find out what stage the cancer is. Stages depend on the tumor’s size, how far it’s spread and whether surgery can remove it.

What Are the Treatments for Mesothelioma?

Mesothelioma spreads quickly once it starts, so it’s critical to get treatment as soon as possible. Age, general health, and the extent of the cancer’s spread all influence how you respond to treatment. Your physician might advise:

  • Surgery to remove the tumors
  • Radiation therapy
  • Chemotherapy
  • Immunotherapy to increase your body’s own defenses against cancer cells
  • Monoclonal antibody therapy or other treatments that target specific cancer cells

These therapies don’t always work. It is crucial to avoid contact with asbestos in order to prevent this malignancy. Talk to your doctor about precautions to take if you’re worried about asbestos in your home or place of employment.


By: Miss Cherry May Timbol – Independent Reporter

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Contact by mail: cherrymtimbol@newscats.org
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