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What Is Mesothelioma ?
By William Johnson
Mesothelioma is a type of cancer which typically affects the cells in one of two areas of the body in nearly 2,000 people annually. One potential effected area is the lining around the outside of the lungs, just inside of the ribs, known as pleural mesothelioma. The other can be located around the abdominal organs, at which time it is referred to as peritoneal mesothelioma. The tumors associated with the disease may be either benign (non-cancerous) or malignant (cancerous). The only known cause of malignant mesothelioma is a previous exposure to asbestos fibers, including chrysotile, amosite or crocidolite. Symptoms of this currently incurable disease may not occur until twenty years or so after exposure.
Asbestos manufacturers were quite aware of the hazards some seventy years ago, but decided to keep this information to themselves. Warnings for those at risk of asbestos disease did not arise until the mid 1960’s, but even then, the warnings were not sufficient to the cause. Even today, those who work around asbestos fibers are not fully warned of the situation and that they are at such high risks for dreaded diseases.
Pleural is the most common type of mesothelioma, for nearly 75% of all cases reported involve a tumor around the lungs. Asbestos fibers in the pleura can create a tumor, as well as encourage its growth. The malignant tumor does not depend on any other processes for its development.
Although there is no current cure, pleural mesothelioma can be treated in a number of ways including: chemotherapy (and other drug-type therapy), radiation, intra-operative photodynamic therapy, and surgery. Experimental treatments like gene therapy
and immunotherapy are also growing in popularity, helping to increase lung function and lessen pain.
Peritoneal mesotheliomas are less common, but are still directly connected to asbestos exposure. It’s not known for sure how the asbestos fibers created a tumor in the thin membrane that surrounds many of the organs in the abdomen. Many believe that the fibers are simply swallowed and lodge themselves in the intestines, eventually moving through the intestinal wall into the peritoneum (thin membrane). Therapies for peritoneal mesothelioma include chemotherapy (and other drug therapies), radiation, and surgery.
Other areas of the body have also been known to house such disease- a type of peritoneal Mesothelioma has been found in the testicles while a pleural Mesothelioma has been found in the heart.
Benign (generally not life threatening) mesotheliomas are not believed to be caused by asbestos exposure. Nearly 70% of all such cases occur in females and can usually be removed with surgery. Unfortunately, cystic benign mesothelioma has a high chance of coming back after removed.
If you or someone you love has been diagnosed with mesothelioma, seek out the most up-to-date information available and get the best medical care. There are literally hundreds of resources available to you through support groups, both medical and within your community.
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