Malignant mesothelioma is a rare cancer that occurs in the thin layer of tissue that covers the majority of your internal organs (mesothelium). It is an aggressive and deadly form of cancer. Mesothelioma treatments are available, but for many people with mesothelioma, a cure is not possible.
Doctors divide mesothelioma into different types based on what part of the mesothelium is affected. Mesothelioma most often affects the tissue that surrounds the lungs. This type is called pleural malignant mesothelioma. Other, rarer types of mesothelioma affect tissue in the abdomen around the heart and around the testicles.
Symptoms associated with malignant mesothelioma
Signs and symptoms of mesothelioma vary depending on the location of cancer.
Pleural mesothelioma, which affects the tissue that surrounds the lungs, causes signs and symptoms that may include:
Peritoneal mesothelioma, which occurs in tissue in the abdomen, causes signs and symptoms that may include:
Tests and diagnosis of malignant mesothelioma
If you have signs and symptoms that might indicate mesothelioma
, your doctor will conduct a physical exam to check for any lumps or other unusual signs. Your doctor may suggest imaging scans, such as a chest X-ray
and a computerized tomography (CT) scan of your chest or abdomen
, to look for abnormalities. Based on the findings, you may undergo further testing to determine whether mesothelioma or another disease is causing your signs and symptoms.
Biopsy is a procedure to remove a small portion of tissue for laboratory examination
, and the only way to determine whether you have mesothelioma. Depending on what area of your body is affected, your doctor selects the right biopsy procedure for you in the form of Fine-needle aspiration, Thoracoscopy, Laparoscopy
, Thoracotomy and Laparotomy. The tissue sample is analyzed under a microscope to see whether the abnormal tissue is mesothelioma and what types of cells are involved.
Treatment options for malignant mesothelioma
What treatment you undergo for mesothelioma depends on your health and certain aspects of your cancer. Unfortunately, mesothelioma
often is an aggressive disease and for most people a cure isn't possible. Mesothelioma is usually diagnosed at an advanced stage. Surgery and other treatment options include:
- Surgery to decrease fluid build-up: Pleural mesothelioma may cause fluid to build up in your chest, causing difficulty breathing. Surgeons insert a tube or catheter into your chest to drain the fluid.
- Surgery to remove the tissue around the lungs or abdomen: Surgeons may remove the tissue lining the ribs and the lungs or the tissue lining the abdominal cavity. This procedure won't cure mesothelioma, but may relieve signs and symptoms.
- Surgery to remove as much of the cancer as possible: If all of the cancer can't be removed, surgeons may attempt to remove as much as possible.
- Surgery to remove a lung and the surrounding tissue: Removing the affected lung and the tissue that surrounds it may relieve signs and symptoms of pleural mesothelioma.
- Chemotherapy uses chemicals to kill cancer cells. Systemic chemotherapy travels throughout the body and may shrink or slow the growth of a mesothelioma that can't be removed using surgery.
- Radiation therapy focuses high-energy beams, such as X-rays, to a specific spot or spots on your body. Radiation may reduce signs and symptoms in people with pleural mesothelioma.
A diagnosis of mesothelioma
can be devastating not only to you but also to your family and friends. Hence, it is important to learn enough about mesothelioma to make decisions about your care.