Mesothelioma – What It Is and Why It Happens

Mesothelioma is a disorder of a protective inner that covers many of our internal organs. This protective inner is called as ‘Mesothelium’. The mesothelial lining of organs secretes a lubricating fluid which allows an easy movement of organs within the body.

Mesothelioma is found mostly in individuals who are exposed to asbestos for a continuously long time. It can take about 30-50 years to appear.

Mesothelioma is in fact a scarce disease. This disease became shared during the 20th century when asbestos was widely used in many industries like shipyards, strength plants, steel plants and refineries etc. Smoking is not the cause of mesothelioma affecting lungs, but it can increase the risk in individuals handling asbestos.

ORGANS INVOLVED:

Mesothelioma can be benign or malignant. The most commonly involved organs include:

  1. The pleura (surrounding the lungs),
  2. The pericardium (surrounding the heart),
  3. The peritoneum (surrounding the abdomen) and
  4. The tunica vaginalis (surrounding the genitals)

BENIGN MESOTHELIOMA:

This form mostly affects men than women. The area involved more commonly is the pleura of the lungs and chest cavity.

Most of such situations go asymptomatic for a long time period. Symptoms can arise due to enlargement of the tumor causing pressure on surrounding structures. In such situations, it can rule to:

  1. Cough,
  2. Weight loss,
  3. Shortness of breath and
  4. Chest pain.

Sometimes an X-ray performed for any other reason may pick up the finding for the first time. Diagnosis can be confirmed by the CT examine or lung biopsy.

Surgical removal of this tumor is the treatment.

MALIGNANT MESOTHELIOMA:

It results from a long term exposure to asbestos. Like benign lesion, this one also goes un-noticed for a long time period of about 20-30 years. Once the symptoms appear, they may include:

  1. Chest pain,
  2. Weight loss,
  3. Cough,
  4. Easy fatigability,
  5. Abdominal pain and
  6. Shortness of breath.

Diagnosis may be confirmed by CT examine or lung or pleural biopsy like for benign tumor.

Unlike the benign lesion, malignant mesothelioma cannot be removed surgically unless diagnosed at quite an early stage. Most of the times when it is diagnosed it is already quite late. The only options consequently left for treatment include chemotherapy or radiation. These do not cure the illness completely; they only help in reducing the symptoms.

If it is left untreated, the average survival age drops to not more than about nine months. But already after the treatment is started, the prognosis depends upon the stage of the tumor, the individual’s response to tumor and the general health condition of the patient.

CONCLUSION:

Although scarce, but it is a disease that can be avoided by avoiding exposure to asbestos. But those working in industries dealing with asbestos are at particular risk. Although such industries have their rules and regulations now according to which they provide compensation to such workers who get affected by this disease, however once diagnosed as a malignant lesion, it is not reversible.

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