Mesothelioma is a tumor that forms in the mesothelium, a type of tissue that makes up the lining of cavities or hollows that shield and encircle particular organs.
Tumors developing in the mesothelium characterize the uncommon condition known as mesothelioma. This tissue creates a cavity for the abdomen and those organs while also covering the lungs, heart, and reproductive organs. The most common type is malignant pleural mesothelioma, which affects the chest and lungs.
Chest cavities are the site of mesothelioma disease’s onset in three out of every four cases. Aside from the chest and abdomen, the heart region can also experience mesothelioma onset.
Malignant cells from the mesothelium can invade and harm nearby tissues regardless of where they come from. Additionally, cancerous cells are able to metastasize, or spread, to various body regions.
Frequently, mesothelioma is already advanced when it is discovered. The 5-year survival rate ranges between 5 and 10%. Most lung mesothelioma patients pass away from pneumonia or respiratory failure. When a tumor penetrates the muscle that divides the chest and abdomen, the diaphragm, some patients experience small-bowel obstruction. When the tumor invades the pericardium, a thin sac that surrounds the heart and the heart itself, fewer people pass away from heart-related complications.
What causes mesothelioma?
Working with asbestos poses the biggest risk of mesothelioma. A class of minerals known as asbestos contains microscopic fibers. Asbestos has been mined and used a lot in the building, auto, and other industries because its fibers are resistant to heat, fire, chemicals, and electricity and don’t conduct electricity.
Small asbestos fibers can cause serious health issues if they are inhaled or ingested if they are released into the air during manufacturing. Up to 75% of mesothelioma cases can be attributed to occupational asbestos exposure. There is some evidence that individuals who live with asbestos workers and their family members are more likely to develop mesothelioma and possibly other asbestos-related diseases.
This risk could be brought on by contact with asbestos dust that asbestos workers bring home in their clothing and hair. People who live close to asbestos mines have also been diagnosed with mesothelioma in some cases.
Nevertheless, it has been reported in people who have never been exposed to asbestos. Other, less frequent, but potential causes include:
Zeolites. Chemically speaking, asbestos is related to these minerals. According to the American Cancer Society, erionite, one of these related minerals, is frequently found in the soil in some regions of Turkey. The high mesothelioma rates in those regions are thought to be caused by exposure to erionite.
radiation. Injections of thorium dioxide (Thorotrast), a substance used by doctors in some chest X-rays until the 1950s, or after exposure to high doses of radiation to the chest or abdomen, are two instances where mesotheliomas have been reported in the literature, according to the American Cancer Society.
virus SV40. According to the American Cancer Society, some studies in lab animals have suggested that exposure to the simian virus 40 (SV40) may increase the risk of mesothelioma’s development. Between 1955 and 1963, some injectable polio vaccines were tainted with SV40, potentially exposing up to 30 million Americans to the virus. People who got the tainted vaccines as children have not been found to have a higher risk of mesothelioma or other cancers in the largest human studies done so far.
Genetics Some medical professionals think some people may have a genetic predisposition. Different populations have different rates of the illness.
Mesothelioma signs and symptoms
Usually, a symptoms don’t show up until 20 to 50 years after the first time asbestos was inhaled.
Chest pain and shortness of breath are the main signs and symptoms of mesothelioma of the lungs. If it is significant enough, fluid buildup in the pleura brought on by mesothelioma may also be a factor in the shortness of breath.
Peritoneal (abdominal) symptoms can consist of:
Abdominal pain and swelling
Abnormalities in blood clotting
- Obstruction of the stomach
Symptoms of cancer that has spread to other body locations may include pain, trouble swallowing, or swelling in the neck or face.
Having these symptoms doesn’t necessarily mean you have mesothelioma because many conditions share them. You should consult your doctor to find out what is causing them.
Physical examination and medical history
Due to its rarity, mesothelioma frequently undergoes initial misdiagnosis. Your doctor will likely take a thorough medical history if you exhibit symptoms that raise the possibility that you have sign in order to look for possible risk factors, such as asbestos exposure. The main factor increasing the risk of mesothelioma is asbestos exposure.
Your doctor will also inquire about your general health and perform an examination to look for any potential symptoms. These could include fluid in the pericardium, chest cavity, or abdomen (the thin membrane around the heart).
Based on the results of the exam, your doctor might tell you to get tested for mesothelioma.
The various types of mesothelioma tests are numerous. These consist of:
a blood test. Blood levels of fibrin-3, osteopontin, and soluble mesothelin-related peptides (SMRPs) are frequently higher in mesothelioma patients. High levels of these substances make the disease more likely, but these blood tests can’t confirm a diagnosis. More research needs to be done before they can be used reliably in a clinical setting.
tests on fluid and tissue samples. Your doctor can take a sample of any fluid that has accumulated in your body and may be linked to mesothelioma by inserting a needle under your skin and into the suspected area. The fluid can then be examined for cancer cells under a microscope. Additional tests can determine whether the cancer is mesothelioma if cancer cells are discovered.
Depending on where the fluid is, different names for this test are used:
- Thoracentesis of the thorax
- Paracentesis of the abdomen
- pericardiocentesis (exam of the heart’s membrane)
It doesn’t necessarily follow that you don’t have mesothelioma just because your doctor doesn’t discover any cells of the disease in your fluid. Actual tissue samples (biopsies) are occasionally required to diagnose mesothelioma.
Biopsies Tissue can be removed in order to be checked for mesothelioma. They consist of:
- Biopsy surgeryTo do this, a long, hollow needle must be inserted under the skin and a small portion of the tumor must be removed. Your doctor might use imaging tests to direct the needle into the tumor. In some cases, the sample may not be enough to make a diagnosis, which means that a more invasive procedure will be needed.
- Thoracoscopy, laparoscopy, and mediastinoscopyIn these procedures, the doctor makes a tiny skin incision and inserts a thin, illuminated scope to view any potential areas. Small tools can be used to extract tissue samples for microscopic examination through other cuts. Depending on the area being examined, a specific procedure will be followed:
Thoracoscopy looks at the region of the chest wall and lungs.
A laparoscopy looks at the abdomen’s interior.
A mediastinoscopy looks at the area of the chest closest to the heart.
Surgical biopsies In some circumstances, more invasive procedures might be required to collect a sufficient amount of tissue for a diagnosis. In this case, a surgeon may do a thoracotomy (opening the chest cavity) or laparotomy (opening the abdominal cavity) to remove a larger piece of the tumor or the whole tumor.
- Endobronchial biopsy guided by ultrasoundTo check the lungs for tumors, a lengthy, thin, flexible tube is passed down the throat. To help the doctor better identify the tumor and the ideal location for the biopsy, the tube also has an ultrasound. The doctor can take a tiny sample of a tumor through the tube if one is discovered.
Imaging exams With the aid of these tests, your doctor can see inside your body without needing to make any cuts. The following imaging exams are frequently used to diagnose mesothelioma:
A chest X-ray An X-ray of the chest might reveal fluid between the lungs and chest wall, changes in the lungs, or abnormal thickening or calcium deposits on the lung lining, all of which could be signs of mesothelioma.
- CT (computed tomography). CT scan is a procedure that produces finely detailed images of the interior of the body using multiple X-rays and a computer. CT scans are frequently used to check for signs of cancer, locate the cancer, and determine whether it has spread.
Positron emission tomography (PET) In this test, a shot of a substance containing a radioactive atom is administered, and then images of the body are taken. The radioactive substance is heavily absorbed by cancer cells, which appear brighter than healthy tissue in the images. Additional testing is then focused on these potentially cancerous areas by doctors.
Imaging using magnetic resonance (MRI). Strong magnets and radio waves are used in MRI scans to create precise images of the body. They might assist your doctor in locating the tumor because they give precise images of soft tissues. MRI scans may be especially helpful for mesotheliomas that affect the diaphragm, a dome-shaped muscle underneath the lungs.
Prognosis For mesothelioma
The prognosis and your treatment options are influenced by a number of factors. These are a few of them:
- The stage of the cancer or the extent of the disease in the bodyMost of the time, the stage is based on the size of the tumor, whether there are cancer cells in the lymph nodes, and how far the disease has spread.
- The size of the mesothelioma
- Whether surgery will be able to completely remove the mesothelioma.
- Fluid volume in the abdomen or chest
- Your age and overall physical condition
- The cellular makeup of mesothelioma
- Whether the cancer was discovered recently or had previously been treated but returned
The factors listed above, as well as others, affect how mesothelioma is treated. Surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy are the three common types of treatment. Treatment frequently consists of two or all three of these methods.
- The following procedures are frequently used to treat mesothelioma:
- wide local excision, which involves removing the cancer as well as some healthy tissue around it.
- Pleurectomy and decortication, in which the surgeon removes some of the chest lining, the outer lining of the lungs, and the pleura.
- Extrapleural pneumonectomy, which involves removing one entire lung as well as a portion of the diaphragm, chest lining, and sac lining surrounding the heart.
- pleurodesis, which involves using a substance or medication to cause the lung lining to scar and adhere to the lung.The scarring prevents fluid accumulation. This is not intended to be a cure; rather, it is used to manage symptoms.
- Radiation treatment High-energy X-rays and other forms of radiation are used in this type of cancer treatment to either kill or stop the growth of mesothelioma cells. Both internal and external radiation delivery is possible. In external radiation therapy, radiation is directed toward the cancer by a device outside the body. Internal radiation involves inserting needles, seeds, wires, or catheters with radioactive material inside of them directly into the vicinity of the mesothelioma.
- Chemotherapy In this, drugs are used to either kill or prevent the division of cancerous mesothelioma cells, thereby halting the growth of the disease. Chemotherapy can be administered orally, intravenously (into a vein or muscle to reach mesothelioma cells all over the body), or topically (directly into the affected area of the body to primarily affect mesothelioma cells there). Doctors occasionally administer multiple chemotherapy drugs. Combination chemotherapy is what this is.
- Immunotherapy To aid your immune system in fighting cancer, this uses specific medications. The FDA has approved the Opdivo and Yervoy drug combination for treating unresectable mesothelioma. That is mesothelioma, which cannot be surgically treated because it has spread to a significant portion of the body.
- treatments for treating cancer (TTF). Chemotherapy and electric fields with particular frequencies are used in this type of treatment to slow the division of cancer cells.
Mesothelioma risk factors include the following:
exposure to asbestos in the past. Your risk of developing mesothelioma is greatly increased if you have ever been in close contact with asbestos fibers, whether at work or at home.
being housed with an asbestos worker. Asbestos exposure can cause people to carry the fibers home on their skin and clothing. Others in the home may develop mesothelioma after years of exposure to these stray fibers. By taking a shower and changing out of their work clothes before leaving, people who work with high levels of asbestos can lessen the chance of bringing asbestos fibers home.
have a mesothelioma family history. You may have a higher risk of developing mesothelioma if your parent, sibling, or child does.
Chest radiation treatment If you had radiation therapy for chest cancer, your risk of mesothelioma may be higher.
Consult professionals qualified to find asbestos in your home. These specialists may conduct an air quality test in your home to ascertain whether asbestos poses a risk to your health. Hire a qualified professional instead of attempting to remove asbestos from your house.
If you believe you have mesothelioma after having previously been exposed to asbestos, you should seek medical attention right away. In order for your doctor to watch out for any signs of an asbestos-related illness, let them know if you have ever been exposed to asbestos. Get a second opinion from a mesothelioma specialist if necessary.