Mesothelioma: Information & Resources

Malignant mesothelioma (sometimes referred to as “mesothelioma” or simply “meso”) is an aggressive form of cancer that affects tens of thousands of people worldwide. Generally associated with long-term exposure to materials that contain asbestos, mesothelioma can grow and spread with alarming speed, which is why early diagnosis is so crucial to a good prognosis. However, the time from initial asbestos exposure to the time of becoming symptomatic is often extremely long—sometimes, the latency period lasts for several decades before someone with mesothelioma begins to feel ill. These factors combine to present clinicians and patients alike with a major dilemma.

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Malignant mesothelioma (all sites): Number of deaths, crude and age-adjusted death rates, U.S. residents age 15 and over, 1999–2010

Types of mesothelioma

Mesothelioma typically affects the linings of the heart, lungs, abdominal cavity, and in rarer cases, the reproductive organs.

Pericardial mesothelioma

One of the more rare mesothelioma types, pericardial mesothelioma affects the lining of the heart. The most popular treatment option for this form of mesothelioma is surgery to remove the cancer and sometimes, the lining of the heart itself.

Peritoneal mesothelioma

One of the more common mesothelioma types, peritoneal mesothelioma affects the lining of the abdominal cavity. It is thought to be caused by swallowing of asbestos or asbestos-like fibers, and popular treatment options include surgical tumor excision, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy.

Pleural mesothelioma

The most common form of mesothelioma affects the lining of the lungs. This form of mesothelioma is typically associated with inhalation of carcinogenic fibers, often on a daily basis over a long period of time (such as while working with asbestos insulation). Treatment options for pleural mesothelioma are varied and depend upon the stage of the cancer at the time of diagnosis.

Testicular mesothelioma

Testicular mesothelioma is extremely rare, with fewer than 100 people across the globe reported as having the diagnosis. The most common method of treatment for mesothelioma of the lining of the testes is surgical removal of the testis affected by the tumor.

Treatment options

There are a variety of treatment options available for people who are diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma, depending on the location and stage of their cancer. Treatments may be curative—that is, intended to remove the cancer and send the patient into remission—or they may be palliative—that is, intended to ease the pain or discomfort experienced by the patient in order to restore quality of life.

Curative treatments

Radiation therapy, surgical treatment, and chemotherapy are often used as potentially curative treatments, with the hopes of removing most or all of the cancerous tissue from the body, either by physically removing it as in surgery, or by delivering cancer-killing radiation or chemo treatment to the tumor. Curative treatments have the best prognosis when the cancer is still localized and has not spread to distant organs in the body.

Palliative treatments

For individuals whose mesothelioma is at a later stage by the time of diagnosis, curative options may be extremely limited. These people still have options, though, to help them reclaim quality of life while living with mesothelioma. For example, surgery to drain excess fluid in the lungs due to pleural mesothelioma may be conducted to make a patient’s breathing easier, and pain medications may also be prescribed to reduce the pain caused by the growth and spread of the cancer. More information at http://mesothelioma.net.