Mesothelioma is a condition that primarily affects the mesothelial cells enveloping the majority of internal organs. This condition manifests in two principal types: pleural and peritoneal mesothelioma.
In extremely rare instances, mesothelioma may develop within the pericardium, which encases the heart, known as pericardial mesothelioma. Furthermore, there are exceedingly rare occurrences of mesothelioma arising in the membrane surrounding the testicles, referred to as testicular mesothelioma.
According to estimates, mesothelioma cases in 2022 exceeded 900 individuals. Notably, the average age at which this condition is diagnosed is approximately 75. In this article, we’ll elaborate on the different causes of mesothelioma. We’ll also shed some light on its symptoms and treatment options.
Causes of Mesothelioma
Asbestos exposure is the most prevalent cause of mesothelioma. Repeated contact with asbestos-contaminated substances, including talc and older construction materials, significantly elevates the risk of mesothelioma.
Asbestos fibers can become lodged within the protective tissues surrounding vital organs. Subsequently, these fibers instigate persistent irritation and inflict damage to the DNA. Such cellular damage prompts the transformation of healthy cells into cancerous ones, eventually causing mesothelioma tumors.
It is essential to acknowledge that occupational asbestos exposure is the leading cause of mesothelioma cases. Professionals engaged in construction, industrial work, firefighting, military service, and other related occupations may have encountered asbestos during their careers.
For individuals who were exposed to asbestos in the distant past, proactively monitoring for early signs of the disease through X-rays and other diagnostic tests proves crucial.
Besides that, given the gravity of mesothelioma cases and their substantial impact on affected individuals and their families, legal recourse has become a critical avenue for seeking justice and compensation. Law firms with expertise in handling mesothelioma-related claims, such as the esteemed Simmons Law Firm, play a vital role in advocating for the rights of those affected by this hazardous exposure. Their specialized knowledge and experience provide invaluable support to victims and their families to navigate the complex legal landscape surrounding mesothelioma cases.
Symptoms of Mesothelioma
The manifestation of symptoms in mesothelioma can vary depending on the specific type of the disease and its stage. It is noteworthy that some individuals may remain asymptomatic despite having mesothelioma. However, for those who do experience symptoms, they may include the following:
General Symptoms (applicable to various types of mesothelioma):
- Night sweats.
- Unintended weight loss.
Symptoms of Pleural Mesothelioma:
- Gradually worsening shortness of breath (dyspnea).
- Chest pain.
- Difficulty swallowing (dysphagia).
- Presence of lumps in the chest area.
- Pleural effusion, which refers to fluid accumulation in the lungs.
Symptoms of Peritoneal Mesothelioma:
- Abdominal pain.
- Nausea and vomiting.
- Blockage in the small intestine.
Symptoms of Pericardial Mesothelioma:
- Low blood pressure.
- Chest pain.
- Breathing difficulties.
Symptoms of Mesothelioma of the Testicles:
- Hydrocele is characterized by swelling in the scrotum due to fluid accumulation.
- Presence of a lump in the scrotum.
- Inguinal hernia.
It is critical to be alert to any symptoms that may occur, especially in people who have a history of asbestos exposure. Early detection and identification of mesothelioma symptoms can improve treatment results and improve the patient’s quality of life. If any of these symptoms are present, it is critical to seek immediate medical attention.
Treatment Options for Mesothelioma
Treatment approaches for mesothelioma are contingent upon individual health factors and specific characteristics of the disease, such as its stage and location.
Regrettably, mesothelioma often exhibits an aggressive nature, and a cure remains elusive for most patients. The mesothelioma diagnosis typically occurs at an advanced stage, making employing surgical intervention for tumor removal challenging. Instead, medical professionals focus on managing the disease to enhance patients’ comfort.
Consultation with your physician is vital to establish treatment goals. Some individuals may opt for aggressive treatment, even if it entails enduring side effects, in pursuit of a potential improvement, however small. Conversely, others may choose treatments that prioritize comfort, aiming to live their remaining time with minimal symptoms.
Surgery serves as a potential option when mesothelioma is detected at an early stage. In such cases, complete removal may lead to a cure. However, when complete removal is not feasible, surgery can alleviate the signs and symptoms arising from the spread of mesothelioma within the body.
Various surgical procedures may include:
- Surgical drainage to address fluid buildup in the chest, which causes breathing difficulties in pleural mesothelioma.
- Removal of the tissue lining the ribs and lungs (pleurectomy) to alleviate symptoms, although not a curative measure.
- Extirpation of an affected lung and surrounding tissue to relieve signs and symptoms of pleural mesothelioma. This approach also allows for higher doses of radiation therapy after surgery, as the lung is no longer at risk of radiation damage.
For peritoneal mesothelioma, surgical intervention may be employed to remove as much tumor as possible, and chemotherapy might be administered before or after surgery.
Radiation therapy involves the focused application of high-energy beams, such as X-rays and protons, to specific areas of the body. It can be used post-surgery to eradicate any remaining diseased cells or to mitigate symptoms of advanced disease when surgery is not feasible.
Chemotherapy, which involves using chemicals to target and destroy diseased cells, may be employed as a systemic approach to shrink or slow the growth of inoperable mesothelioma. Additionally, it can be used as a neoadjuvant treatment to facilitate surgery or as an adjuvant treatment to reduce the risk of recurrence after surgery. Intraperitoneal chemotherapy might be used specifically for peritoneal mesothelioma, with heated chemotherapy drugs administered directly into the abdominal cavity.
Other Treatment Options
Other treatments, including immunotherapy and targeted therapy, may be considered in specific situations. Immunotherapy leverages the body’s immune system to combat the disease by interfering with cancer cell-produced proteins that inhibit the immune response. Targeted therapy employs drugs that exploit specific vulnerabilities in diseased cells. While not commonly used for mesothelioma, targeted therapy might be recommended based on tumor DNA testing results.
Receiving a diagnosis of a rare disease such as mesothelioma can impose a substantial emotional burden. It is natural to experience feelings of concern and bewilderment regarding the path ahead.
The key lies in prioritizing access to exceptional medical care while recognizing that there are actionable measures both you and your loved ones can undertake to equip your family with knowledge, valuable resources, and a sense of optimism.
Iskra Banović is our seasoned Editor-in-Chief at BlueFashion. She has been steering the website's content and editorial direction since 2013. With a rich background in fashion design, Iskra's expertise spans across fashion, interior design, beauty, lifestyle, travel, and culture.