Mesothelioma: Causes, Who Is At Risk, Types, Symptoms, Diagnosis, Present Treatment, Emerging Treatment
What Is Mesothelioma?
Mesothelioma Cancer is a pathological condition of the lungs which is usually found in people who have been exposed to asbestos for a prolonged period of time in their life. This cancerous condition usually affects the thin protective membrane which surrounds the lungs, heart, or the abdominal cavity. Although the use of asbestos in industries has come down at a rapid rate in recent times the occurrence of Mesothelioma Cancer has remained steady. It takes anywhere between 25 to 50 years postexposure for the condition to develop in an individual. It is estimated that around 3000 cases of Mesothelioma Cancer is diagnosed every year in the United States of America.
What Are The Causes Of Mesothelioma?
As stated, Mesothelioma Cancer usually develops after prolonged exposure to asbestos in the working environment like shipyards, auto repair shops, very old buildings. There have been cases where individuals have developed this condition with only short term exposure. With chronic inhalation of asbestos fibers, these fibers get lodged in the protective linings surrounding the lungs called the pleura and over time gradually start to cause scarring, inflammation and damages to the lungs. After decades of being lodged in the lungs, this takes the appearance of a malignant tumor and thus Mesothelioma Cancer occurs.
Who Are At Risk For Developing Mesothelioma?
People who have worked in the following industries before the government passed laws for stopping use of asbestos in industries:
- Textile industry
- Demolition of old houses
- Chemical industries which used asbestos
Types Of Mesothelioma
There Are Basically Three Type Of Mesothelioma Cancer:
Pleural Mesothelioma: This is the most common type of Mesothelioma Cancer and affects the lungs.
Peritoneal Mesothelioma: This is the second most common form of Mesothelioma Cancer and it is caused when the asbestos fibers get lodged in the linings of the abdominal cavity.
Pericardial Mesothelioma: This potentially the most serious forms of Mesothelioma Cancer just due to the location of it being close to the heart.
What Are The Symptoms Of Mesothelioma?
Symptoms caused by Mesothelioma Cancer are extremely mild and barely noticeable hence individuals fail to recognize the symptoms early enough. In the early stages, fatigue and mild pain may be observed. In advanced stages, the symptoms become more noticeable and concerning.
Some Of The Symptoms Experienced In The Advanced Stages Are:
- Shortness of breath
- Chronic pain near the tumor
- Unintentional weight loss
- Fluid buildup
- Bowel obstruction
How Is Mesothelioma Diagnosed?
For a confirmatory diagnosis of Mesothelioma Cancer, the treating physician will conduct a history so as to ascertain whether there is a history of prior chronic asbestos exposure. Once exposure is confirmed, the following diagnostic tests may be carried out by the treating physician:
Imaging studies: Chest x-ray will first be done to look for any abnormalities. Once found, a more detailed imaging with the help of PET scan, CT or MRI scan may be done.
Biopsies: If there is a suspicion of a tumor, then a biopsy will be conducted to confirm the diagnosis.
What Are Treatments For Mesothelioma Presently?
The main treatment options for Mesothelioma Cancer at the present time are surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy. Usually, these are done in combination and are known as multimodal therapy.
Palliative treatments are used for calming down the symptoms experienced by the affected individual and increase their survival rates.
Surgery: A curative surgery is available if the disease is detected in the initial stages. In case of advanced stage patients, a palliative surgery can be done to ease out the symptoms.
Chemotherapy: It is a standard treatment for all forms of cancers and is done to kill malignant cells, tumor shrinkage, and relieve symptoms.
Radiation Therapy: This is done either alone or in combination with chemotherapy to kill cancer cells and shrink tumors.
What Are Some Of The Emerging Treatments For Treatment For Mesothelioma?
There are many experimental therapies which are currently under different stages of trials and are being tested. One such treatment is the Gene Therapy in which healthy DNA is used to repair cancerous cells into healthy cells.
Another treatment coming up as being an effective treatment for Mesothelioma Cancer is the Photodynamic Therapy. This treatment involves killing cancer cells by use of oxygen activated by a light source. Photodynamic Therapy has been used along with pleurectomy. With the use of this therapy, if there are any remaining cancer cells after the removal of the pleura they are also killed.
A recent study conducted shows that the survival rate increased from 31 months to 41 months by using this combination treatment.
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