Friday, February 4, 2011

What Is Mesothelioma?

Mesothelioma is a rare form of cancer that can arise in the mesothelial lining of the lungs, heart or abdomen. Some cases have even been reported to develop in the lining of the testicles as well. These four types of mesothelioma are called pleural mesothelioma(lung), pericardial mesothelioma (heart), peritoneal mesothelioma (abdomen) and testicular mesothelioma.
Combined, these cancers affect 2,000 to 3,000 people in the United States each year. Receiving a diagnosis can be difficult due to the similarity of symptoms to other, more common conditions and doctors may overlook mesothelioma as a diagnosis. Another contributing factor that makes these cancers difficult to diagnose is the severe latency period of symptoms. From the time of someone's initial exposure to asbestos, the primary cause of mesothelioma, signs of development may take as long as 20 to 50 years to arise.
Symptoms or signs of mesothelioma may not appear until 20 to 50 years (or more) after exposure to asbestos. Shortness of breath, cough, and pain in the chest due to an accumulation of fluid in the pleural space (pleural effusion ) are often symptoms of pleural mesothelioma.
Symptoms of peritoneal mesothelioma include weight loss and cachexia, abdominal swelling and pain due to  ascites (a buildup of fluid in the abdominal cavity). Other symptoms of Peritoneal Mesothelioma may include bowel obstruction, blood clotting abnormalities, anemia, and fever . If the cancer has spread beyond the mesothelium to other parts of the body, symptoms may include pain, trouble swallowing, or swelling of the neck or face.
These symptoms may be caused by mesothelioma or by other, less serious conditions.
Mesothelioma that affects the pleura can cause these signs and symptoms:
  • Chest wall pain
  • Pleural effusion, or fluid surrounding the lung
  • Shortness of breath
  • Fatigue or anemia
  • Wheezing, hoarseness, or cough
  • Blood in the sputum (fluid) coughed up (hemoptysis)
In severe cases, the person may have many tumor masses. The individual may develop a pneumothorax ,or collapse of the lung. The disease may metastasize, or spread, to other parts of the body.
Tumors that affect the abdominal cavity often do not cause symptoms until they are at a late stage. Symptoms include:
  • Abdominal pain
  • Ascites,or an abnormal buildup of fluid in the abdomen
  • A mass in the abdomen
  • Problems with bowel function
  • Weight loss
In severe cases of the disease, the following signs and symptoms may be present:
  • Blood clots in the veins, which may cause thrombophlebitis
  • Disseminated intravascular coagulation,a disorder causing severe bleeding in many body organs
  • Jaundice,or yellowing of the eyes and skin
  • Low blood sugar level
  • Pleural effusion
  • Pulmonary emboli, or blood clots in the arteries of the lungs
  • Severe ascites
A mesothelioma does not usually spread to the bone, brain, or adrenal glands. Pleural tumors are usually found only on one side of the lungs.

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