Mesothelioma is a rare form of cancer that develops in the mesothelium; the protective lining that covers the internal organs of the body. It is usually caused by exposure to asbestos and the most common form of Mesothelioma is pleural, which affects the lungs, but it can also develop in the peritoneum, which lines the abdominal cavity, and the pericardium – the sac that surrounds the heart. In males it can sometimes be found in the tunica vaginalis, which is the sac that surrounds the testis.
While Mesothelioma remains a relatively rare cancer, there are more and more cases being reported by the older generation who may have been exposed to asbestos in industrial working environments in their younger years. The countries with the highest rate of Mesothelioma cases are Britain, Belgium and Australia, with 30 per 1,000,000 per year.
What makes Mesothelioma so difficult to treat is the fact that it can take 20-50 years for symptoms to develop and when they do present themselves, they are commonly mistaken for other illnesses and suffers sometimes misdiagnose themselves before seeing a doctor.
Signs of Mesothelioma include shortness of breath, chest or abdominal pain, fatigue, hoarseness or wheezing and unexpected weight loss. In severe cases of the disease, Mesothelioma symptoms may include blood clots in veins, pleural effusion, low level of blood sugar and jaundice.
Because Mesothelioma symptoms are similar to a lot of other common conditions,and because of the latency of the disease, diagnosis of Mesothelioma can be difficult and by the time Mesothelioma is detected, it is often too late.
Unforunately, the life expentancy for people diagnosed with the cancer is rarely more than a couple of years and in most cases, is just a few months. There are, however, treatments available that can slow the progression of this aggressive cancer and expand the amount of time that sufferers have left. These include chemotherapy, radiotherapy and in some cases, surgery. Mesothelioma treatment can be effective in shrinking tumors in the early stages of the disease, but cures are incredibly rare and the prognosis remains sadly disappointing.
Because Mesothelioma is caused by exposure to asbestos, many cases are due to working conditions of people in the past where asbestos was present in their working environment. Compensation may be available to those who contracted the disease due to inhaling asbestos or being exposed to the fumes in jobs they held and many dedicated law firms can help people affected to file lawsuits against their former employers.