Forms of Mesothelioma
Mesothelioma manifests in the form of a cancerous tumor which involves the mesothelial cells of an organ, usually the lungs, heart, or abdominal organs. The mesothelium helps protect your organs by making a special lubricating fluid that allows organs to move around. The mesothelioma is called by different names depending on which part of the body it develops in. In the abdomen it is called peritoneum, in the lungs, the plurea, and in the heart, the pericardium. Although very rare, mesothelioma can also start in the tunica vaginalis which is a covering layer of the testicles. This is commonly known as testicular mesothelioma.
Pleural mesothelioma is the most common form of mesothelioma accounting for 80% - 90% of all cases. It affects the soft tissue surrounding the lungs known as the pleura or pleural membrane. The cancer usually forms in the mesothelium which is a tissue membrane that protects various organs and body cavities. Pleural mesothelioma is usually caused by occupational exposure to airborne asbestos fibers. Such exposures frequently occur in male dominated industries, such as construction, so approximately 80% of all mesothelioma patients are men. Once asbestos fibers are inhaled into the lungs they migrate to the pleural membrane where the body cannot easily get rid of them. Fibers irritate the pleura causing scarring and chronic inflammation. This sometimes result is mesothelioma. The presence of asbestos in the pleura will, over an extended period of time, usually three or four decades, cause genetic changes in the pleural cells. If these cells become cancerous they will start to divide uncontrollably forming tumors that reduce lung capacity and generate excessive fluid buildup between the pleural layers. This fluid puts pressure on the lungs, resulting in chest pains and the impairment of normal breathing. These complications are largely responsible for the symptoms of pleural mesothelioma.
Because symptoms of pleural mesothelioma do not arise until more advanced stages of cancer where curative surgery is no longer an option, the prognosis for pleural mesothelioma patients is poor.
Symptoms of Pleural Mesothelioma
The initial onset of symptoms include:
- Difficulty with swallowing
- Coughing up blood
- Shortness of breath, and difficulty breathing
- Pain in the chest and/or abdominal region
- Loss of appetite and loss of weight
- Fluid accumulation in chest or abdominal area
Peritoneal mesothelioma is cancer of the stomach lining and is the next most common form of mesothelioma. This form of mesothelioma accounts for about 10% - 20% of all cases. Like pleural mesothelioma, peritoneal mesothelioma is caused by exposure to asbestos and the latency period is similar. Misdiagnosis is also common, as with all other types of mesothelioma, as symptoms closely mimic minor stomach and abdominal discomfort and hernia. Prognosis of mesothelioma patients is poor and peritoneal mesothelioma patients are no exception. The most common treatments include chemotherapy and radiation therapy but in the rare case in which the disease is detected early there are surgical options that could potentially add years to the initial prognosis.
Symptoms of Peritoneal Mesothelioma
When the symptoms of peritoneal mesothelioma appear they typically include:
- Abdominal pains
- Abdominal weakness
- Weight loss
- Loss of appetite
- Abdominal swelling
Pericardial mesothelioma is rare, accounting for only about 1% - 6% of all mesotheliomas. The disease develops in the pericardium which is a membrane that surrounds, supports, and protects the heart. Pericardial mesothelioma has an average prognosis that is significantly worse than pleural or peritoneal mesothhelioma. Studies have found that as many as 50% - 60% of all patients die within six months of diagnosis. An additional problem is that the symptoms resemble the symptoms of other heart conditions, making the cancer relatively difficult to diagnose quickly. The latency period for pericardial mesothelioma is just as long as the other forms of mesothelioma with the same result of a poor prognosis.
Symptoms of Pericardial Mesothelioma
The following symptoms may indicate pericardial mesothelioma:
- Heart palpitations or irregular heartbeat
- Chest pains
- Difficulty breathing even when at rest
- Fever or night sweats
Testicular Mesothelioma is the rarest form of mesothelioma. It develops in the membranous lining that surrounds the testicle, the tunica vaginalis, which provides protection and support for the reproductive organ. Due to the rarity of testicular mesothelioma there is no recognized set to symptoms for this form of cancer. In the majority of the few reported cases of the disease, noticeable symptoms have been confined to the appearance of testicular lumps and the swelling of the scrotum. Although this is the rarest form of mesothelioma it is also the most treatable. Testicular mesothelioma treatment usually involves the removal of a portion of one testicle or even the entire testicle if necessary. This depends on the extent of the cancer. Treatment may be followed by chemotherapy or radiation therapy to kill any remaining cancer cells. Because testicular mesothelioma is often a secondary tumor, and the primary tumor is often located within the peritoneum, treatment may not end with the removal of testicular tumors. The primary tumors may also need to be treated. Testicular mesothelioma and peritoneal mesothelioma, are classified as being clinically aggressive forms of types of asbestos cancer. This means that they can spread rapidly and invasively. Testicular mesothelioma tends to recur within a few years even in cases where the tumors are surgically removed.
The information on this page is meant to provide a general overview of the law. The laws in your state and/or city may deviate significantly from those described here. If you have specific questions related to your situation you should speak with a local attorney.
Additional Mesothelioma Articles
- Potential Plaintiffs in Mesothelioma Litigation
- How To Hire a Mesothelioma Attorney
- How is mesothelioma diagnosed?
- How long does a mesothelioma or asbestos exposure lawsuit take?