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Mesothelioma

What is mesothelioma?
Mesothelioma is a rare form of cancer (malignancy) that most frequently arises from the cells lining the sacs of the chest (the pleura) or the abdomen (the peritoneum).

How do you get mesothelioma?

Most people with malignant mesothelioma have worked on jobs where they breathed asbestos. Others have been exposed to asbestos in a household environment, often without knowing it.

How much exposure does it take to get mesothelioma?

An exposure of as little as one or two months can result in mesothelioma 30 or 40 years later.

How long does it take after exposure for mesothelioma to show up?

People exposed in the 1940s, 50s, 60s, and 70s are now being diagnosed with mesothelioma because of the long latency period of asbestos disease.

How is mesothelioma diagnosed?

Mesothelioma is diagnosed by pathological examination from a biopsy. Tissue is removed, placed under the microscope, and a pathologist makes a definitive diagnosis, and issues a pathology report. This is the end of a process that usually begins with symptoms that send most people to the doctor: a fluid build-up around the lungs

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(pleural effusions),  shortness of breath, pain in the chest, or pain or swelling in the abdomen. The doctor may order an x-ray or CT scan of the chest or abdomen. If further examination is warranted, the following tests may be done:

  • Thoracoscopy

For pleural mesothelioma the doctor may look inside the chest cavity with a special instrument called a thoracoscope. A cut will be made through the chest wall and the thoracoscope will be put into the chest between two ribs. This test is usually done in a hospital with a local anesthetic or painkiller.

If fluid has collected in your chest, your doctor may drain the fluid out of your body by putting a needle into your chest and use gentle suction to remove the fluid. This is called thoracentesis.

  • Peritoneoscopy

For peritoneal mesothelioma the doctor may also look inside the abdomen with a special tool called a peritoneoscope. The peritoneoscope is put into an opening made in the abdomen. This test is usually done in the hospital under a local anesthetic.

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Medical

mes·o·the·li·o·ma (mĕz'ə-thē'lē-ō'mə, mĕs'-)
n., pl. -mas or mes·o·the·li·o·ma·ta (-mə-tə).

A rare neoplasm derived from the lining cells of the pleura and peritoneum and growing as a thick sheet composed of spindle cells or fibrous tissue covering the viscera.


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WordNet

Note: click on a word meaning below to see its connections and related words.

The noun mesothelioma has one meaning:

Meaning #1: a rare form of carcinoma of the mesothelium lining lungs or abdomen or heart; usually associated with exposure to asbestos dust
 



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Wikipedia

mesothelioma
Mesothelioma is an uncommon form of cancer, usually associated with prolonged exposure to asbestos, which affects the pleura, a sac which surrounds the lungs, the peritoneum, the lining of the abdominal cavity, or the pericardium, a sac that surrounds the heart.

Mesothelioma is a rare form of cancer in which malignant (cancerous) cells are found in the mesothelium, a protective sac that covers most of the body's internal organs. 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.

What is the mesothelium?

The mesothelium is a membrane that covers and protects most of the internal organs of the body. It is composed of two layers of cells: One layer immediately surrounds the organ; the other forms a sac around it. The mesothelium produces a lubricating fluid that is released between these layers, allowing moving organs (such as the beating heart and the expanding and contracting lungs) to glide easily against adjacent structures.

The mesothelium has different names, depending on its location in the body. The peritoneum is the mesothelial tissue that covers most of the organs in the abdominal cavity. The pleura is the membrane that surrounds the lungs and lines the wall of the chest cavity. The pericardium covers and protects the heart. The mesothelial tissue surrounding the male internal reproductive organs is called the tunica vaginalis testis. The tunica serosa uteri covers the internal reproductive organs in women.

What is mesothelioma?

Mesothelioma (cancer of the mesothelium) is a disease in which cells of the mesothelium become abnormal and divide without control or order. They can invade and damage nearby tissues and organs. Cancer cells can also metastasize (spread) from their original site to other parts of the body. Most cases of mesothelioma begin in the pleura or peritoneum.

How common is mesothelioma?

Although reported incidence rates have increased in the past 20 years, mesothelioma is still a relatively rare cancer. About 2,000 new cases of mesothelioma are diagnosed in the United States each year. Mesothelioma occurs more often in men than in women and risk increases with age, but this disease can appear in either men or women at any age.

What are the risk factors for mesothelioma?

Working with asbestos is the major risk factor for mesothelioma. A history of asbestos exposure exists in almost all cases. However, mesothelioma has been reported in some individuals without any known exposure to asbestos.

Asbestos is the name of a group of minerals that occur naturally as masses of strong, flexible fibers that can be separated into thin threads and woven. Asbestos has been widely used in many industrial products, including cement, brake linings, roof shingles, flooring products, textiles, and insulation. If tiny asbestos particles float in the air, especially during the manufacturing process, they may be inhaled or swallowed, and can cause serious health problems. In addition to mesothelioma, exposure to asbestos increases the risk of lung cancer, asbestosis (a noncancerous, chronic lung ailment), and other cancers, such as those of the larynx and kidney.

The combination of smoking and asbestos exposure significantly increases a person's risk of developing cancer of the air passageways in the lung. The Kent brand of cigarettes used asbestos in its filters for the first few years of production in the 1950s and some cases of mesothelioma have resulted. Smoking current cigarettes does not appear to increase the risk of mesothelioma.

Who is at increased risk for developing mesothelioma?

Asbestos has been mined and used commercially since the late 1800s. Its use greatly increased during World War II. Since the early 1940s, millions of American workers have been exposed to asbestos dust. Initially, the risks associated with asbestos exposure were not known. However, an increased risk of developing mesothelioma was later found among shipyard workers, people who work in asbestos mines and mills, producers of asbestos products, workers in the heating and construction industries, and other tradespeople. Today, the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) sets limits for acceptable levels of asbestos exposure in the workplace. People who work with asbestos wear personal protective equipment to lower their risk of exposure.

The risk of asbestos-related disease increases with heavier exposure to asbestos and longer exposure time. However, some individuals with only brief exposures have developed mesothelioma. On the other hand, not all workers who are heavily exposed develop asbestos-related diseases.

Family members and others living with asbestos workers have an increased risk of developing mesothelioma, and possibly other asbestos-related diseases. This risk may be the result of exposure to asbestos dust brought home on the clothing and hair of asbestos workers. To reduce the chance of exposing family members to asbestos fibers, asbestos workers are usually required to shower and change their clothing before leaving the workplace.

What are the symptoms of mesothelioma?

Symptoms of mesothelioma may not appear until 30 to 50 years after exposure to asbestos. Shortness of breath and pain in the chest due to an accumulation of fluid in the pleura are often symptoms of pleural mesothelioma. Symptoms of peritoneal mesothelioma include weight loss and abdominal pain and swelling due to a buildup of fluid in the abdomen. 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. It is important to see a doctor about any of these symptoms. Only a doctor can make a diagnosis.

How is mesothelioma diagnosed?

Diagnosing mesothelioma is often difficult, because the symptoms are similar to those of a number of other conditions. Diagnosis begins with a review of the patient's medical history, including any history of asbestos exposure. A complete physical examination may be performed, including x-rays of the chest or abdomen and lung function tests. A CT (or CAT) scan or an MRI may also be useful. A CT scan is a series of detailed pictures of areas inside the body created by a computer linked to an x-ray machine. In an MRI, a powerful magnet linked to a computer is used to make detailed pictures of areas inside the body. These pictures are viewed on a monitor and can also be printed.

A biopsy is needed to confirm a diagnosis of mesothelioma. In a biopsy, a surgeon or a medical oncologist (a doctor who specializes in diagnosing and treating cancer) removes a sample of tissue for examination under a microscope by a pathologist. A biopsy may be done in different ways, depending on where the abnormal area is located. If the cancer is in the chest, the doctor may perform a thoracoscopy. In this procedure, the doctor makes a small cut through the chest wall and puts a thin, lighted tube called a thoracoscope into the chest between two ribs. Thoracoscopy allows the doctor to look inside the chest and obtain tissue samples. If the cancer is in the abdomen, the doctor may perform a peritoneoscopy. To obtain tissue for examination, the doctor makes a small opening in the abdomen and inserts a special instrument called a peritoneoscope into the abdominal cavity. If these procedures do not yield enough tissue, more extensive diagnostic surgery may be necessary.

If the diagnosis is mesothelioma, the doctor will want to learn the stage (or extent) of the disease. Staging involves more tests in a careful attempt to find out whether the cancer has spread and, if so, to which parts of the body. Knowing the stage of the disease helps the doctor plan treatment.

Mesothelioma is described as localized if the cancer is found only on the membrane surface where it originated. It is classified as advanced if it has spread beyond the original membrane surface to other parts of the body, such as the lymph nodes, lungs, chest wall, or abdominal organs.

How is mesothelioma treated?

Treatment for mesothelioma depends on the location of the cancer, the stage of the disease, and the patient's age and general health. Standard treatment options include surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy. Sometimes, these treatments are combined.

  • Surgery is a common treatment for mesothelioma. The doctor may remove part of the lining of the chest or abdomen and some of the tissue around it. For cancer of the pleura (pleural mesothelioma), a lung may be removed in an operation called a pneumonectomy. Sometimes part of the diaphragm, the muscle below the lungs that helps with breathing, is also removed.
  • Radiation therapy, also called radiotherapy, involves the use of high-energy rays to kill cancer cells and shrink tumors. Radiation therapy affects the cancer cells only in the treated area. The radiation may come from a machine (external radiation) or from putting materials that produce radiation through thin plastic tubes into the area where the cancer cells are found (internal radiation therapy).
  • Chemotherapy is the use of anticancer drugs to kill cancer cells throughout the body. Most drugs used to treat mesothelioma are given by injection into a vein (intravenous, or IV). Doctors are also studying the effectiveness of putting chemotherapy directly into the chest or abdomen (intracavitary chemotherapy).

To relieve symptoms and control pain, the doctor may use a needle or a thin tube to drain fluid that has built up in the chest or abdomen. The procedure for removing fluid from the chest is called thoracentesis. Removal of fluid from the abdomen is called paracentesis. Drugs may be given through a tube in the chest to prevent more fluid from accumulating. Radiation therapy and surgery may also be helpful in relieving symptoms.

Are new treatments for mesothelioma being studied?

Yes. Because mesothelioma is very hard to control, the U.S. National Cancer Institute (NCI) is sponsoring clinical trials (research studies with people) that are designed to find new treatments and better ways to use current treatments. Before any new treatment can be recommended for general use, doctors conduct clinical trials to find out whether the treatment is safe for patients and effective against the disease. Participation in clinical trials is an important treatment option for many patients with mesothelioma.

History (particular reference to Australia)

An article by Wagner, published in the British Journal of Industrial Medicine in 1960, first established mesothelioma as a disease arising from exposure to crocidolite asbestos. The article ("Diffused Pleural Mesothelioma and Asbestos Exposure in the North Western Cape Province") referred to over 30 case studies of people who had suffered from mesothelioma in South Africa. Some exposures were transient and some were mine workers.

In 1962 Dr McNulty reported the first diagnosed case of malignant mesothelioma in an Australian asbestos worker in the Medical Journal of Australia. The worker had worked in the mill at the asbestos mine in Wittenoom from 1948 to 1950.

In 1965 an article in the British Journal of Industrial Medicine established that people who lived in the neighbourhoods of asbestos factories and mines, but did not work in them, had contracted mesothelioma.

Despite proof that the dust associated with asbestos mining and milling causes asbestos related disease, mining began at Wittenoom in 1943 and continued until 1966. It is difficult to understand why the mine and mill was allowed to initially open and operate without adequate risk control measures; and why nothing was done to force the owner (CSR) to clean them up, adopt safer work practices or close down their operations.

In 1974 the first public warnings of the dangers of blue asbestos were published in a cover story called "Is this Killer in Your Home?" in Australia's Bulletin magazine. In 1978 the Western Australian Government decided to phase out the town of Wittenoom, following the publication of a Health Dept. booklet, "The Health Hazard at Wittenoom", containing the results of air sampling and an appraisal of worldwide medical information.

By 1979 the first writs for negligence related to Witternoom were issued against CSR and its subsidiary ABA, and the Asbestos Diseases Society was formed to represent the Wittenoom victims.

Source: Worksafe, Western Australia (http://www.safetyline.wa.gov.au/institute/level2/course21/lecture95/l95_04.asp)

External links

Sources

The first version of this article was adapted from a public domain U.S. National Cancer Institute fact sheet at http://cis.nci.nih.gov/fact/6_36.htm


 



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