Mesothelioma is a rare and aggressive form of cancer that affects the lining of the lungs, chest, abdomen, and heart. This disease is commonly associated with exposure to asbestos, a mineral that was widely used in construction, insulation, and manufacturing industries until the 1980s. While mesothelioma is a serious condition, there are resources available to help patients and their families cope with the challenges of the disease.
What is Mesothelioma?
Mesothelioma is a cancer that develops in the mesothelium, a thin layer of tissue that covers most of the body’s organs. The mesothelium helps protect these organs and allows them to move and function properly. When mesothelioma develops, the cells in the mesothelium become abnormal and divide uncontrollably, forming tumors that can spread to other parts of the body.
There are three main types of mesothelioma:
Pleural mesothelioma: This type of mesothelioma affects the lining of the lungs and is the most common form of the disease.
Peritoneal mesothelioma: This type of mesothelioma affects the lining of the abdomen and is less common than pleural mesothelioma.
Pericardial mesothelioma: This type of mesothelioma affects the lining of the heart and is the rarest form of the disease.
Symptoms of Mesothelioma
The symptoms of mesothelioma can vary depending on the type of cancer and the stage of the disease. Some common symptoms include:
- Chest pain
- Shortness of breath
- Abdominal pain
- Swelling in the abdomen
- Nausea and vomiting
- Loss of appetite
- Unexplained weight loss
- Irregular heartbeat
Diagnosis and Treatment
Diagnosing mesothelioma can be challenging because the symptoms are often similar to those of other diseases. If mesothelioma is suspected, a doctor may perform a physical exam, order imaging tests, and biopsy the affected tissue to confirm the diagnosis.
Treatment options for mesothelioma depend on the type of cancer, the stage of the disease, and the patient’s overall health. Some common treatments include surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy. In some cases, a combination of treatments may be used to help shrink tumors and manage symptoms.
Support and Resources Available through the American Cancer Society
Receiving a mesothelioma diagnosis can be overwhelming, and patients and their families may have many questions and concerns about the disease and available treatments. The American Cancer Society is a non-profit organization that provides a wide range of resources and support for cancer patients and their families.
The American Cancer Society can connect patients with support groups, counseling services, and financial assistance programs to help cover the cost of medical care. The organization also provides information about mesothelioma and available treatments, as well as tips for managing symptoms and coping with the emotional impact of the disease.