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What is Mesothelioma?

Definitions of mesothelioma on the Web:

  • A benign (noncancerous) or malignant (cancerous) tumor affecting the lining of the chest or abdomen. Exposure to asbestos particles in the air increases the risk of developing malignant mesothelioma.

  • Malignant tumor of the mesothelium caused by exposure to asbestos fibers.

  • A tumor of the mesothelium, that can be benign (localized) or malignant (diffusely spread), and that is most commonly caused by the ingestion of asbestos particles.

  • A rare form of lung cancer caused by exposure to asbestos. Mesothelioma affects the pleura of the lungs, often over a period of many years.

  • A rare cancer, usually found in those exposed to asbestos, in the form of a malignant tumor in the mesothelium of the lungs and or abdomen. Symptoms of this incurable disease are persistent coughing or coughing of blood, chest or abdomen pain, fatigue, and weight loss.

  • (mez-uh-thee-lee-YOH-muh) — A tumor in the lining of the chest or abdomen (stomach area).

  • A type of lung cancer that is closely associated with a history of asbestos exposure.

  • Type of cancer associated with exposure to asbestos

  • a cancerous tumor occurring in the lining of the lungs and chest cavity, often associated with exposure to asbestos dust

  • A cancer of cells similar to those forming the lining of the lungs, heart, the abdominal cavity and its organs.

  • a rare form of carcinoma of the mesothelium lining lungs or abdomen or heart; usually associated with exposure to asbestos dust

  • Mesothelioma is an uncommon form of cancer, usually associated with previous exposure to asbestos, which affects the pleura, a sac which surrounds the lungs, the peritoneum, the lining of the abdominal cavity, or the pericardium, a sac that surrounds the heart.


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    What is Mesothelioma?

    Mesothelioma is the term used to describe cancer of the mesothelium, a protective lining that covers many of the body's organs. Mesothelioma can be found in the sac lining the chest (pleura), the lining of the abdominal cavity (peritoneum), or the lining around the heart (pericardium). Mesothelioma is caused by the inhalation of asbestos fibers. These fibers irritate the mesothelial cells that form the mesothelium.

    Prevalence of Mesothelioma

    Mesothelioma cases in the U.S. have increased over the past 20 years, with approximately 2,000 new cases diagnosed each year. Mesothelioma occurs mostly in male adults who have worked closely with asbestos.

    History of Mesothelioma

    The first cases of mesothelioma were discovered in the "Asbestos Hills" in South Africa. Although the occurrence of mesothelioma in the U.S. is low, there has still been a threefold increase in mesothelioma cases due to exposure to asbestos in asbestos product plants and shipbuilding facilities.

    Types of Mesothelioma

    Mesothelioma can be classified more specifically based on where the cancerous tissue is found.
  • Pleural Mesothelioma affects of the lining of the lungs. It is the most common type of mesothelioma.

  • Peritoneal Mesothelioma affects the lining of the abdominal cavity

  • Pericardial Mesothelioma affects the heart and tissue surrounding the heart.
  • Cause of Mesothelioma

    Mesothelioma is caused by the inhalation of asbestos fibers. The asbestos fibers cause the cells of the mesothelium to become abnormal and begin to divide uncontrollably, forming a malignant tumor (cancer). These cells break off and spread to other parts of the body, causing further damage to organs and tissues.

    Signs and Symptoms of Mesothelioma

    Signs and symptoms of mesothelioma usually do not appear until 30+ years after exposure to asbestos. Early stages of mesothelioma are similar to pneumonia. The following is a list of the common signs and symptoms of mesothelioma:

  • Dyspnea
  • Swelling of abdomen/chest, neck or face
  • Chest pain
  • Persistent cough
  • Fever
  • Weight loss
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • The Development of Mesothelioma

    Exposure to asbestos for as short a time period as one to two months may cause mesothelioma to develop 30+ years later. Exposure may have occurred in the workplace when handling asbestos fibers or materials composed of asbestos, or at home just by living in the close quarters with asbestos.

    If you have been exposed to asbestos at any time, and you have any of the symptoms of mesothelioma, you should see your doctor for a definitive diagnosis.

    Source: National Cancer Institute

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