Malignant mesothelioma is a rare type of asbestos cancer that affects the mesothelial tissue lining of three of the body's largest cavities: the pleura (lung cavity), the peritoneum (abdominal cavity) and the pericardium (heart sac). A given case of malignant mesothelioma can therefore develop in one of three primary locations, each of which constitutes its own unique type of mesothelioma.
Types of Malignant Mesothelioma
Mesothelioma of the pleura, or pleural mesothelioma, is the most commonly diagnosed type of mesothelioma cancer. Approximately 75% of all malignant mesothelioma cases affect the mesothelial cells of the pleura.
Mesothelioma of the peritoneum, or peritoneal cancer, is the second most commonly diagnosed type of mesothelioma cancer. Approximately 10 to 20% of all malignant mesothelioma cases affect the mesothelial cells of the peritoneum.
Mesothelioma of the pericardium, or pericardial mesothelioma, is the least commonly diagnosed type of mesothelioma cancer. Less than 10% of all malignant mesothelioma cases affect the mesothelial cells of the pericardium.
Malignant Mesothelioma Cellular Types
In addition to being typed in accordance with the section of mesothelial tissue that it affects, malignant mesothelioma is also broken into three basic histological categories. A given malignant mesothelioma sufferer is diagnosed with epithelioid mesothelioma, sarcomatoid mesothelioma or biphasic (mixed) mesothelioma.
While epithelioid and sarcomatoid mesothelioma present a unique cellular structure, biphasic mesothelioma is simply a combination of both (hence its "mixed" classification).
Malignant Mesothelioma Causes
Although other causes of malignant mesothelioma have not been ruled out, the disease has been exclusively linked with exposure to asbestos. Asbestos was commonly used throughout the twentieth century for a variety of industrial and commercial purposes. After widespread concern was issued in regards to the health hazards associated with exposure to asbestos, the metamorphic mineral was regulated under section 112 of the Clean Air Act in 1970.
In addition to being linked with the development of malignant mesothelioma, asbestos exposure has been attributed to the onset of a number of other diseases, some of which include asbestos lung cancer, laryngeal asbestos cancer and asbestosis (a non-malignant asbestos disease).
Malignant Mesothelioma Symptoms & Diagnosis
The symptoms of malignant mesothelioma vary from one form of the asbestos disease to another. Because pleural mesothelioma is by far and away the most commonly diagnosed form of the disease, its symptoms are most often associated with malignant mesothelioma as a whole. The most common presenting symptom of pleural mesothelioma is a buildup of fluid inside the pleural space (space between the parietal and visceral pleura) called pleural effusion. The onset of pleural effusion is often associated with chronic chest pain that prompts a sufferer to schedule an appointment with a doctor.
A diagnosis of mesothelioma requires a routine physical examination and study of family history. Diagnostic imaging tests like x-rays, MRIs and CT scans are often utilized to view the affected area from multiple levels. Because of certain symptomatic similarities between the two, malignant mesothelioma is often misdiagnosed as pneumonia following physical examination and diagnostic imaging tests. In order to generate a definitive diagnosis, a biopsy is required. A biopsy calls for the physical removal of a small section of suspect tissue for examination by a histopathologist; after which a mesothelioma diagnosis can be confirmed, the disease staged, and treatment options discussed.
Malignant Mesothelioma Treatment
Thus far, malignant mesothelioma has proven to be an incurable asbestos disease. There are a variety of treatment modalities that are used in effort to combat the growth and spread of the disease; however, they have provided patients with little more than a brief extension of life. New mesothelioma treatments are being researched and developed each and every day in effort to generate a modality that can effectively slow mesothelioma metastasis and give sufferers a fighting chance at surviving the aggressive asbestos cancer.
The increased number of individuals becoming afflicted with asbestos-related diseases has led to a significant rise in the number of consumers taking legal actions. Across the country, including the State of California mesothelioma lawyers have been successfully representing victims who are seeking compensation from negligent manufacturers. These monies are used to help pay for escalating medical bills while maintaining a certain quality of life.