Mesothelioma is a very rare but highly aggressive form of cancer that adversely affects the cells that make up the mesothelium lining. The disease is often linked to asbestos exposure.
Mesothelium is a thin layer of tissue or membrane that covers and protects various vital internal organs of the body including the lungs, heart, abdomen, and testicles.
Mesothelioma mainly affects the linings of the lung (pleural mesothelioma), although it’s also known to affect the linings of the abdomen, the heart (pericardial mesothelioma), as well as the testicles (testicular mesothelioma).
«According to the American Cancer Society, there are an estimated 2, 000 to 3, 000 new cases per year of the disease in the United States.»
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What Does Asbestos Do To The Lungs?
Statistics indicate that approximately 75% of all mesothelioma cases are those of the lungs while about 20% are of the abdomen. The cancer rarely develops in the linings of the heart and testicles.
Based on the statistics, it’s plain to see that the disease affects the lungs by a considerably large percentage. Most deaths usually occur as a result of mesothelioma of the lungs.
So, why does mesothelioma mainly affect the lungs?
Well, mesothelioma is caused by prolonged exposure to asbestos, a very dangerous mineral whose use has so far been banned in many states.
Asbestos is characterized by microscopic fibers that lodge themselves into the lining covering the lungs. Because they are commonly inhaled, these fibers are more likely to settle in the lining of the lungs, which explains the prevalence.
Upon identifying foreign bodies, the body attempts to get rid of these fibers but because of their microscopic size and their ability to lodge deep into the lining, the effort becomes futile.
The body is unable to expel these fibers and as a result, they become trapped. Because of this, the fibers continue irritating the lungs, causing severe inflammation, scarring, and the formation of tumors in the lungs.
In its late-stage, mesothelioma may spread to surrounding body organs, causing more serious health complications.
« No matter what your exposure level is, asbestos is a harmful substance that could have adverse effects on your health later in life.»
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What are the Symptoms of Mesothelioma that Originates from the Lungs?
Because of its long-latency period, the symptoms aren’t often noticed until the disease has progressed, mostly in its late-stage. That’s why it’s very difficult to cure the disease, plus its prognosis is very poor.
Common pleural mesothelioma symptoms include;
- Chest pains
- Dry cough
- Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
- Build up of fluids in the lungs (pleural effusion)
- Reduced Lung Expansion
- Faint or harsh breathing sounds
- Excessive fatigue/extreme tiredness
- Fever and sweating especially during the night
- Loss of appetite
- Unexplained weight loss
- Swollen fingertips
Diagnosis and Treatment Options
The doctor may perform a number of tests to confirm the presence of mesothelioma(s) and check how far it has spread. They include;
- CT Scan
- Thoracoscopy/Laparoscopy- Tissue Biopsy
- Fluid Drainage
After diagnosis, the doctor may recommend various treatment options which of course depend on factors such as how far it has spread, age, and general health.
Because the disease is often diagnosed in its late stage, most treatment options are usually focused on alleviating the symptoms, improving their life quality, and extending their lifespan.
These treatment options include;
- Radiation therapy
- Alternative therapy
Mesothelioma is more common in men (80%) than it is in women (20%).