Mesothelioma: A Rare and Deadly Form of Cancer


Mesothelioma is a deadly form of cancer that attacks the thin layer of cells surrounding the lungs, heart and abdominal cavity. This rare disease has been associated with exposure to asbestos. More than 80 percent of people who suffer from mesothelioma have worked with asbestos products during long periods of time. Because the symptoms first appear decades after exposure to asbestos, mesothelioma is diagnosed in advanced stages. There is no known cure for this aggressive disease.

Types of Mesothelioma

Micrograph of malignant mesothelioma, also mes...
Micrograph of malignant mesothelioma, also mesothelioma. Cytopathology specimen – pleural fluid. The image shows the features of mesothelioma: Nuclear membrane irregularies. 3-D clusters of more than 10 cells with with “knobby” borders. Large nuclear-to-cytoplasmic ratio (focal). Occasional gigantic cells. Macronucleoli. Multiple nucleoli. See also Image:Mesothelioma cytology 1.jpg – same field different plane of focus. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This deadly cancer affects different areas of the body. Pleural mesothelioma represents over 75 percent of cases. This form of cancer occurs in the pleural lining of the lungs, causing shortness of breath, hoarseness, chest pain, unexplained weight loss, anemia, fever and muscle weakness. In advanced stages, pleural mesothelioma causes excessive accumulation of fluid in the lungs. Approximately 3,000 people are diagnosed with the disease each year.

Approximately 30 percent of all people suffering from asbestos cancer are diagnosed with peritoneal mesothelioma. This form of cancer is also known as peritoneal mesothelioma, as it develops in the thin membrane that covers the abdominal organs. Peritoneal mesothelioma is caused by inhaling asbestos fibers. The first symptoms appear 20 to 30 years after exposure to asbestos. This disease has a latency period shorter than the pleural and pericardial mesothelioma.

The main symptoms associated with peritoneal mesothelioma include fever, difficulty swallowing, abdominal pain upper, abnormal blood clotting, fluid in the abdomen (ascites), anorexia, and hypoglycemia. Some patients experience abdominal swelling, venous thrombosis, and intestinal obstruction. Diarrhea and constipation often occur in patients with peritoneal mesothelioma.

Peritoneal mesothelioma can also affect the coating layer of the scrotum. This rare form of mesothelioma occurs when asbestos fibers migrate from the abdominal area to the membrane around the scrotum.

Pericardial mesothelioma affects less than 10 percent of all patients with mesothelioma. This rare and aggressive attacks the lining of the heart. When it spreads to the lungs, is considered secondary lung cancer. The only known cause of pericardial mesothelioma is exposure to asbestos. This type of cancer occurs when asbestos fibers work their way toward the heart. Common symptoms include palpitations, breathing problems, chest pain, fatigue, night sweats and coughing. Most individuals diagnosed with pericardial mesothelioma are not eligible for surgery because the tumor is detected in advanced stages. Less than 60 percent of patients live another six months after diagnosis.


Diagnosing mesothelioma is a difficult task even for experienced physicians. If you have symptoms associated with this form of cancer, the physician obtains a complete physical examination, imaging tests, biopsies and pulmonary function tests.  The doctor will also perform a physical examination to detect the presence of a pleural effusion. To provide an accurate diagnosis, the oncologist may recommend liquid biopsies, CT scans, MRIs, X-rays and blood tests. These medical procedures to help identify the type of cancer cells and cancer spread.

All forms of mesothelioma are caused by exposure to asbestos. Detecting the tumor early is essential. If you have a history of asbestos exposure, seek medical help immediately.


The are plenty of resources on the Internet regarding this deadly disease.  One can start by searching for the keyword “mesothelioma” on Google or Yahoo.