What is Mesothelioma?
The tissue that lines your lungs, stomach, heart and other organs is called mesothelium. Mesothelioma is a tumor of that tissue. It usually starts in the lungs, but can also start in the abdomen or other organs. It can be benign (not cancer) or malignant (cancer).
Malignant mesothelioma is a rare but serious type of cancer. Sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference between malignant mesothelioma and lung cancer. Your doctor uses imaging tests and a biopsy to make the diagnosis. Malignant mesothelioma is often found when it is advanced, which makes it harder to treat. Treatment may include surgery, radiation and/or chemotherapy.
Symptoms of Mesothelioma
- Trouble breathing
- Pain under the rib cage
- Pain, swelling or lumps in the abdomen
- Weight loss for no known reason
Mesothelioma Risk Factors and Causes
Most people who develop mesothelioma have worked on jobs where they inhaled asbestos particles. Workers in industries like construction, demolition, insulation, pipefitting, plumbing and electrical tend to be at higher risk for mesothelioma. You can reduce your risk by wearing proper protective gear and talking to your employer and doctor about other precautions that may help limit asbestos exposure.
Living with someone who is regularly exposed to asbestos can also increase your risk as they unintentionally may bring fibers home on their clothing.
It typically takes a long time for a person to develop mesothelioma after exposure. Regular checkups with your primary care doctor can help you get ahead of any new symptoms and receive any necessary treatment sooner.
Mesothelioma Diagnosis and Treatment
Mesothelioma involves mutated cancerous cells that must be stopped and/or removed through treatment. If you were exposed to asbestos and are experiencing symptoms in your chest or lungs that may indicate mesothelioma, your doctor might order a chest X-ray or other imaging tests to get a clearer picture of your abdominal cavity.
They may also need to take a sample (biopsy) of fluid in your chest to confirm your diagnosis. If these tests detect cancer, your care team will need to determine how much the cancer has spread before creating a treatment plan tailored to you.
Your treatment may include medication, surgery, radiation, chemotherapy or a combination of options. In some cases, clinical trials may be available. Your AdventHealth Cancer Institute care team will keep your whole health in mind as we approach your unique mesothelioma treatment.