Mesothelioma Cancer Centers

Malignant mesothelioma, often just called mesothelioma, is a rare cancer that originates in lining surrounding certain organs such as the lungs, heart and stomach. The mesothelium produces fluid that helps the organs move against each other, such as when you breathe. The mesothelium has different names in different parts of the body: In the chest, it’s the pleura; in the abdomen, it’s the peritoneum; around the heart, it is the pericardium; in the testicles is the tunica vaginalis. It is most common in the chest, where it is known as pleural mesothelioma.

Unlike other cancers, it doesn’t grow as a single large tumor. Instead it begins in the lining, which leads to symptoms. For instance, if the cancer starts in the lining around the lungs, it can eventually affect their ability to expand. Over time, the cancer can grow into nearby organs or spread to other parts of the body.

Mesotheliomas can also be grouped based on how the cancer cells look under a microscope:

  • The epithelioid type is the most common and has a better outlook than the other types.
  • The sarcomatoid type tends to be harder to treat.
  • The mixed (biphasic) type has both epithelioid and sarcomatoid areas. It tends to have an outlook in between the other two types.

Mesothelioma is a rare and serious form of cancer. This form of cancer develops in the linings of the lungs, abdomen or heart. Almost all cases of mesothelioma are caused by asbestos exposure. Asbestos is a fibrous, powdery substance that was commonly used as insulation material for several decades. It was soon discovered that breathing in asbestos problems can cause serious medical problems, but this was kept hidden for many years as manufacturers continued to use it as a cheap building material.

When asbestos particles enter the lungs, they can remain there for years before they start to cause problems. In many cases, people who were exposed to asbestos do not develop mesothelioma for more than ten years from when they encountered it.

While mesothelioma symptoms can be managed and treatment can improve quality of life, in most cases a cure is not possible.

Causes of Mesothelioma

Most mesotheliomas are thought to be related to asbestos exposure. However, other conditions, traits or habits may also play a role in raising your risk. These conditions are known as risk factors and include:

Non-modifiable risk factors: These factors are irreversible and cannot be changed. The more of these risk factors you have, your chance of developing this disease.

  • Personal history of asbestos exposure
  • Family history of mesothelioma
  • Living with someone who works with asbestos
  • Exposure to secondhand smoke
  • Air pollution: a mixture of solid particles and gases in the air (i.e. car emissions, chemicals from factories, dust, pollen, among others).
  • Exposure to other substances (i.e. arsenic, cadmium, chromium, nickel, etc.)

Modifiable risk factors: These factors can be modified, treated or controlled through medications or lifestyle changes.

  • Long history of cigarette smoking and/or drug abuse

Other conditions that contribute to mesothelioma

  • Radiation therapy to the chest

Symptoms of Mesothelioma

The symptoms of mesothelioma are not much different from other forms of lung cancer. They usually do not appear until the tumor has had a chance to grow and starts putting pressure on surrounding nerves and organs. Symptoms of mesothelioma typically include:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Frequent headaches
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Persistent cough
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain
  • Recurring lung problems like bronchitis or respiratory infections
  • Persistent fatigue

Diagnosis of Mesothelioma

Screenings are typically performed through a routine check-up even if no symptoms are present. Your doctor will also schedule a screening, if you are showing any symptoms or are exposed to certain risk factors. Typically, based on your doctor’s assessment, you will have or more of the following:

Diagnostic tests and procedures

  • X-rays
  • Computed Tomography (CT scan)
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
  • Positon-emission tomography (PET)
  • Bronchoscopy
  • Tissue biopsy

Treatment of Mesothelioma

Although there’s no sure way to prevent this type of cancer, you can reduce your risk by following certain recommendations. Treatment options include:

Lifestyle changes

  • Avoid smoking
  • Test your home for radon
  • Avoid carcinogens at work
  • Make and keep appointments to see your doctor for routine check-ups and follow-up tests.

Medical and Surgical procedures

The mesothelioma cancer experts at RWJBarnabas Health use state-of-the-art methods to diagnose and treat mesothelioma in any area of the body it occurs, including the lungs, kidneys, liver, heart, and abdomen.

To contact one of New Jersey’s best lung and thoracic cancer specialists call
844-CANCERNJ or 844-226-2376.

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