Mesothelioma is a malignant tumor that is caused by inhaled asbestos fibers and forms in the lining of the lungs, abdomen, or heart. Symptoms can include shortness of breath and chest pain. The life expectancy for most mesothelioma patients is approximately 12 months after diagnosis. Treatment may improve prognosis and can include surgery, chemotherapy, or radiation.
What Is Mesothelioma Cancer?
Malignant mesothelioma is a rare, incurable, asbestos-related cancer that usually affects the lining of the lungs. This cancer is known as pleural mesothelioma. But mesothelioma tumors can also form on the linings of the abdomen, heart, and testes.
KEY FACTS ABOUT MESOTHELIOMA
- More than 3,000 cases of mesothelioma are diagnosed yearly in the United States.
- Pleural mesothelioma accounts for 75% of cases.
- Average age of mesothelioma patient is 69.
- Men represent the majority of mesothelioma diagnoses.
- Average life expectancy for mesothelioma patients is 12 to 21 months.
Symptoms of mesothelioma appear when tumors spread, grow and press against the chest wall and the abdominal cavity. Chest pain and shortness of breath are the most common symptoms.
COMMON MESOTHELIOMA SYMPTOMS
- Dry coughing
- Shortness of breath
- Respiratory complications
- Pain in the chest or abdomen
- Fever or night sweats
- Pleural effusion (fluid around the lungs)
- Weakness in the muscles
A biopsy is the only mesothelioma test that confirms a diagnosis. Doctors may use additional diagnostic procedures. An early mesothelioma diagnosis may increase a patient’s eligibility for all treatment options
- Imaging ScansMost people initially undergo a basic chest X-ray to check for any abnormalities. If an abnormal growth or fluid around the lung is detected, doctors will recommend a more detailed imaging scan such as a PET scan, CT scan or MRI.
- BiopsiesIf cancer is suspected, doctors will recommend taking a sample of tissue, also knowns as a biopsy. Doctors use this tissue sample to definitively confirm the presence of malignant mesothelioma cells.
- Blood TestsBlood tests may be used but do not confirm the presence of mesothelioma. Researchers are evaluating if blood tests can aid in the early diagnosis of at-risk former asbestos workers.
- StagingDoctors use at least five staging systems to stage pleural mesothelioma. The IMIG staging system is preferred. No universal staging system exists for the other mesothelioma types.