An Overview of Malignant Mesothelioma

danger sign asbestos hazard

Malignant mesothelioma is a cancer typically diagnosed in people with prolonged exposure to extreme levels of asbestos. It primarily occurs in the thin layer of tissue covering a significant portion of the mesothelium, or your inner organs. It is a life-threatening and aggressive form of cancer that can affect the thin layer of lubricating cells lining the chest walls and the lungs, known as the pleura, or pleural mesothelioma.

Doctors categorically divide mesothelioma into various brackets, based on which distinct part of the mesothelium is being impacted. Peritoneal mesothelioma is pertinent to the abdomen and results in symptoms like weight loss, nausea, abdominal pain, and vomiting. Additional symptoms may include bowel obstructions, hemoptysis, anemia, and chest pain. A few rare types of mesothelioma impact tissues around the testicles and the heart.

Causes of Malignant Mesothelioma

Exposure to asbestos is the most significant cause for over 80% of individuals diagnosed with mesothelioma. Inhalation of asbestos fibers damages the DNA, resulting in scarring and inflammation. These fibers migrate to different parts of the body, causing various forms of the syndrome. For example, the peritoneal type develops with fibers lodging in the stomach lining, while the pleural mesothelioma is caused when fibers penetrate the pleura of the throat and lungs. Mesothelioma often occurs after decades of asbestos inhalation.

Common Symptoms of Mesothelioma and Peritoneal Mesothelioma

Symptoms of mesothelioma depend on the body part affected by this cancer. The symptoms of pleural mesothelioma, affecting the tissues around the lungs, include:

  • Agonizing and persistent cough
  • Shortness of breath
  • Sudden weight loss
  • Chest pain

The symptoms for peritoneal mesothelioma, occurring in the abdominal tissues, include:

  • Sudden weight loss
  • Abdominal swelling
  • Nausea
  • Abdominal pain

Indications of other rare forms of mesothelioma are not very clear. Pericardial mesothelioma, occurring in the tissues around the heart, causes symptoms like chest pain and breathing disorders. Mesothelioma of tunica vaginalis, which affects the tissues around the testicles, is detected by a mass or swelling on the testes.

Therapeutics Under Development for Treatment of the Disease

It is estimated that more people with mesothelioma are discovering that they have malignant mesothelioma earlier than people in the past. Therefore, they are receiving more quality treatments than they were in the past. In most cases, mesothelioma diagnosed at a very advanced stage has a five-year survival rate of 5%–10% in patients who have the condition. Previously, the rate of survival was much lower. As more researchers and medical teams commit to finding workable treatments for individuals who are impacted by this condition, the survival rate will continue to grow. Scientists have been searching for advanced ways to diagnose, prevent, and treat mesothelioma for years and continue to do so. Some conventional treatments include photodynamic therapy, chemotherapy, immunotherapy, and radiation therapy.

However, the combination of these therapies is being tested to create the most promising solutions for patients with mesothelioma. These newer treatment forms have been discovered through clinical trials and may offer more options to both patients and doctors. Researchers have even found that subjecting specific cancer cells to alternating electric fields can decelerate or prevent their growth. According to the TMR Research report, companies like Pfizer are trying to get FDA approval for individuals with cancer. They’re currently seeking support for a new medication, Rituxan, that has traditionally been used to treat non-Hodgkins Lymphone (NHL), Granulomatosis with Polyganlitis but may show promising results for cancer.  This medication is very similar to Rituxan and will hopefully provide patients with effective and affordable treatment with fewer side effects.

Conclusion

Although malignant mesothelioma is a grave form of cancer, knowing the causes and symptoms in advance can help to control the disease before it progresses to dangerous levels. Additionally, we must become more aware of malignant mesothelioma and work together with state-backed healthcare programs and non-governmental agencies to raise awareness about this disease. By making the public more aware of the condition and helping to detect it earlier, we can undoubtedly develop better treatment options and hopefully find a cure that will end the suffering of malignant mesothelioma patients all over the world.

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