What is Mesothelioma; who is at risk?


What is Mesothelioma 

What is Mesothelioma

Mesothelioma is an aggressive cancer that affects the lining of the lungs, heart, or abdomen. It most commonly starts in the layers of tissue that cover each lung (the pleura). More rarely it starts in the layer of tissue in the abdomen that surrounds the digestive system organs (the peritoneum). This cancer develops from the thin layer of tissue that covers many of the internal organs known as the mesothelium, hence the name mesothelioma. It is Caused primarily by the inhalation of asbestos fibers.

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It is most commonly diagnosed in older individuals who worked with asbestos in an industrial setting. Prognosis for mesothelioma is poor, but early detection and newer treatment methods have given many patients hope for survival.

Sometimes it is hard to tell the difference between mesothelioma and lung cancer. Your doctor uses imaging tests and a biopsy to make the diagnosis. Malignant mesothelioma is often found when it is advanced. This makes it harder to treat. Treatment may include surgery, radiation, and/or chemotherapy.


Risk factors

Greater than 80% of mesothelioma cases are caused by exposure to asbestos. The greater the exposure the greater the risk. As of 2013 about 125 million people have been exposed to asbestos at work. High rates of disease occur in people who mine asbestos, produce products from asbestos, work with asbestos products, live with asbestos workers, or work in buildings containing asbestos. Asbestos exposure and the onset of cancer are generally separated by about 40 years. Washing the clothing of someone who worked with asbestos also increases the risk. Other risk factors include genetics and infection with the simian virus 40.


  • Pleural
  • Peritoneal
  • Pericardial
  • End State


Signs and Symptoms

The symptoms depends on the type of the disease:


  • Pain in the chest wall
  • Pleural effusion
  • Shortness of breath
  • Fatigue or anemia
  • Wheezing
  • Hoarseness
  • Cough
  • Blood in the sputum (fluid) coughed up (hemoptysis)
  • Pneumothorax
  • Collapse of the lung, etc



  • Abdominal pain
  • Ascites, or an abnormal buildup of fluid in the abdomen
  • A mass in the abdomen
  • Problems with bowel function
  • Weight loss



  • Constrictive pericarditis
  • Heart failure
  • Pulmonary embolism
  • Cardiac tamponade
  • Substernal chest pain
  • Orthopnea (shortness of breath when lying flat)
  • Cough


End state

  • Blood clots in the veins, which may cause thrombophlebitis
  • Disseminated intravascular coagulation, a disorder causing severe bleeding in many body organs
  • Jaundice, or yellowing of the eyes and skin
  • Low blood sugar level
  • Pleural effusion
  • Pulmonary emboli, or blood clots in the arteries of the lungs
  • Severe ascites



It is almost always caused by exposure to asbestos. Asbestos is a group of minerals made of microscopic fibres that used to be widely used in construction.

These tiny fibres can easily get in the lungs, where they get stuck, damaging the lungs over time. It usually takes a while for this to cause any obvious problems, with mesothelioma typically developing more than 20 years after exposure to asbestos (30-40 years onset).

The mesothelium consists of a single layer of flattened to cuboidal cells forming the epithelial lining of the serous cavities of the body including the peritoneal, pericardial and pleural cavities. Deposition of asbestos fibers in the parenchyma of the lung may result in the penetration of the visceral pleura from where the fiber can then be carried to the pleural surface, thus leading to the development of malignant mesothelial plaques.

Some diagnostic procedures

  • CT scan
  • Biopsy
  • X Ray
  • Immunochemistry



 Prognosis for mesothelioma is poor, but early detection and newer treatment methods have given many patients hope for survival though long-term survival and cures are exceedingly rare.

Treatment measure for mesothelioma are through:

  • Chemotherapy
  • Radiotherapy
  • Surgery



Robinson, BM (November 2012). “Malignant pleural mesothelioma: an epidemiological perspective.”. Annals of cardiothoracic surgery. 1 (4): 491–6. PMC 3741803 Freely accessible. PMID 23977542. doi:10.3978/j.issn.2225-319X.2012.11.04.

 Gulati, M; Redlich, CA (March 2015). “Asbestosis and environmental causes of usual interstitial pneumonia.”. Current Opinion in Pulmonary Medicine. 21 (2): 193–200. PMC 4472384  . PMID 25621562. doi:10.1097/MCP.0000000000000144.

 News about the disease


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