Mesothelioma is a rare type of cancer that develops in the lining of large internal organs. It is caused by asbestos exposure. Because asbestos fibers are minuscule, they become lodged in the lining of the internal organs and, over time, lead to the growth of cancerous tumors. The time period between exposure to asbestos and the onset of mesothelioma cancer can be several decades, which is why many patients fail to recognize the initial symptoms of the disease. Sadly, this leads to a delayed diagnosis of mesothelioma, which in turn decreases the patient’s life expectancy.
Patients who develop mesothelioma often have been exposed to asbestos at their workplace, such as navy shipyards and construction sites. The repeated exposure to asbestos means that they inhaled millions of tiny asbestos fibers that remained in their bodies. The three organs most often affected by mesothelioma are the lungs, heart and stomach.
Lungs: Pleural Mesothelioma
The most common form of mesothelioma, known as pleural mesothelioma, affects the lungs. The disease results when inhaled asbestos fibers become lodged in the lining that surrounds the lungs and cause the growth of cancerous cells around them. This process causes the lining of the lungs to fill with fluid, which obstructs breathing and causes chest pain. At this point, most pleural mesothelioma patients notice that something is wrong and seek the help of a doctor.
Stomach: Peritoneal Mesothelioma
The asbestos fibers can also become lodged in the lining around the stomach. This type of mesothelioma, which is called peritoneal mesothelioma, occurs when a person eats food covered with microscopic asbestos fibers. The fibrous material remains in the stomach lining for a long time (20-50 years) before it prompts the growth of the cancer cells. Peritoneal mesothelioma is much rarer than pleural mesothelioma, accounting for about 10-20 percent of all mesothelioma cases.
Heart: Pericardial Mesothelioma
The tiny asbestos fibers can also become lodged in the lining of the heart, where they can cause cancer. This form of mesothelioma is called pericardial mesothelioma. It is a very rare type of mesothelioma, accounting for about 10 percent of all mesothelioma cases.
Mesothelioma: Medical and Legal Considerations
The treatment for all forms of mesothelioma is similar and typically involves a combination of surgery, chemotherapy and radiation. While an aggressively administered mesothelioma treatment can slow the spread of the disease, it can rarely cure it. This is because most mesothelioma cancers are discovered at an advanced stage, when treatment is less effective.
If you have been diagnosed with mesothelioma or your loved one has died from this disease, a knowledgeable mesothelioma lawyer may help you hold those responsible for your suffering liable for your medical bills, physical and psychological pain, and reduced quality of life.