Mesothelioma is a form of cancer that usually starts in the lungs but can also start in the abdomen. It is most commonly associated with exposure to asbestos as most people who suffer from the disease will have been exposed to the substance at some time in their life.
Forms of Mesothelioma
Below are the three main forms of mesothelioma:
- Pleural mesothelioma – This is the most common form of mesothelioma and affects the pleura, which is the lining around the lungs. As with other types of mesothelioma, the most common cause of the disease is exposure to asbestos.
- Peritoneal mesothelioma – This is the second most common form of mesothelioma and affects the lining of the abdomen.
- Epithelioid mesothelioma – This is the most common cell type and occurs in 70% of all diagnoses.
One of the best ways to spot mesothelioma is to know what symptoms are associated with the disease. Common mesothelioma symptoms include:
- Breathing difficulties
- Painful coughing fits
- Inexplicable weight loss
- Pain around the rib cage
- Lumps around the chest
- Pain in the lower regions of the back
- Sweating and fever
Of course, the symptoms of mesothelioma and their severity will vary from person to person although most people will display at least some of the symptoms mentioned above.
Mesothelioma Life Expectancy
As with any form of cancer, the mesothelioma prognosis will depend on how much it has spread and how severely the patient is affected. Unfortunately, mesothelioma is a very aggressive form of cancer and is often only detected once it is in advanced stages. The typical life expectancy after diagnosis is 1-2 years. It is worth pointing out however, that new treatments are being researched all the time and there are of course exceptions where patients are able to live much longer than this.
There are several options available for treating mesothelioma. These include:
- Surgery – Surgery is generally only an option during the early stages of mesothelioma. It is used to remove the tumours that grow as a result of the disease. It can be very effective form of treatment and sometimes it is possible to remove the entire cancer or at least slow down its progression. Surgery isn't just used to remove tumours however. It is also used to remove a lung in cases of more advanced mesothelioma, as this can help to alleviate symptoms quite significantly.
- Chemotherapy – Where surgery isn't possible, chemotherapy can be used to shrink the tumours. It will also help to slow down their progress. Chemotherapy is often used in conjunction with surgery, to make the tumours easier to remove by shrinking them beforehand.
- Radiotherapy – Radiotherapy is most useful for those with pleural mesothelioma and can help to alleviate symptoms. Radiotherapy is also used to prevent metastasis after surgery.
For more information on asbestos, read our guide about the different types of asbestos.
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