Is a form of cancer that is almost always caused by previous exposure to asbestos. In this disease, malignant cells develop in the mesothelium, a protective lining that covers most of the body's internal organs. Its most common site is the pleura (outer lining of the lungs and chest cavity), but it may also occur in the peritoneum (the lining of the abdominal cavity) or the pericardium (a sac that surrounds the heart).
Most people who develop mesothelioma have worked on jobs where they inhaled asbestos particles, or have been exposed to asbestos dust and fibre in other ways, such as by washing the clothes of a family member who worked with asbestos, or by home renovation using asbestos cement products. There is no association between mesothelioma and smoking.
Signs and symptoms
Symptoms of mesothelioma may not appear until 20 to 50 years after exposure to asbestos. Shortness of breath, cough, and pain in the chest due to an accumulation of fluid in the pleural space are often symptoms of pleural mesothelioma.
Symptoms of peritoneal mesothelioma include weight loss and cachexia, abdominal swelling and pain due to ascites (a buildup of fluid in the abdominal cavity). Other symptoms of peritoneal mesothelioma may include bowel obstruction, blood clotting abnormalities, anemia, and fever. If the cancer has spread beyond the mesothelium to other parts of the body, symptoms may include pain, trouble swallowing, or swelling of the neck or face.
These symptoms may be caused by mesothelioma or by other, less serious conditions.
Mesothelioma that affects the pleura can cause these signs and symptoms:
- chest wall pain
- pleural effusion, or fluid surrounding the lung
- shortness of breath
- wheezing, hoarseness, or cough
In severe cases, the person may have many tumor masses. The individual may develop a pneumothorax, or collapse of the lung. The disease may metastasize, or spread, to other parts of the body.
Tumors that affect the abdominal cavity often do not cause symptoms until they are at a late stage. Symptoms include:
- abdominal pain
- ascites, or an abnormal buildup of fluid in the abdomen
- a mass in the abdomen
- problems with bowel function
- weight loss
In severe cases of the disease, the following signs and symptoms may be present:
- 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
A mesothelioma does not usually spread to the bone, brain, or adrenal glands. Pleural tumors are usually found only on one side of the lungs.
Prevention of MesotheliomaThe only method of prevention is avoidance of asbestos exposure. The risk of malignant mesothelioma can be reduced by avoiding getting exposed to asbestos. The areas of exposed asbestos containing insulation has to be checked by experts. Such areas must be removed or sealed off. The workers of industries who are required to deal with asbestos containing materials should try to limit their exposure. People who could be exposed to asbestos at work include miners, factory workers, insulation workers, railroad workers, ship builders, makers of gas masks, and construction workers. Workers who routinely deal with asbestos-containing materials should use approved measures to limit their exposure and to keep from bringing asbestos dust home on their clothing. Cigarette smoking should be avoided by all persons and asbestos exposed individuals should avoid cigarette smoke in particular because asbestos plus cigarette smoking can cause lung cancer.
Medicine for Mesothelioma
Endostatin is a new Mesothelioma medicine that may help patients. The results of a Phase I trial of Endostatin conducted at the University of Texas revealed promise for patients suffering from this cancer. Most significantly Endostatin was shown to be safer than many alternative therapies. It also showed some effectiveness in combating tumor growth and in two of the twenty five patients caused tumor shrinkage.
The results of the trial seemed to indicate that Endosatin may be safe for non-clinical use. In the trial, the drug exhibited few toxic side effects and was well tolerated by all the participants. The study also reported that the drug slowed the flow of blood in the body in proportion to dosage increases. This effect may be useful in limiting blood flow to tumors so that they become malnurished, stop growing, shrink or even disappear.
During the trial, Endostatin was injected intravenously and as the test went on dosages were increased. To monitor the pharmalogical effects of the drug and the progress of the patient, researchers conducted regular biopsies, PET scans, Computer Tomographies (CT) as well as physical exams. The patients that participated in the trial suffered from a range of cancer types including melanoma, head and neck cancer, renal cell carcinoma, colon cancer, breast cancer, and sarcoma. Though no patients with mesothelioma participated in the trial, researchers feel that Endostatin may hold promise for this type of cancer as well.
The participants of the trial were all patients that were being treated at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson previously. All had undergone standard therapy for their condition but treatment had been unsuccessful. Patient's interested in participating in similar studies should contact their treating physician to learn about the options.