Mesothelioma: The internal organs are surrounded by a thin tissue called mesothelium. Malignant Mesothelioma affects this very tissue, and it is not a curable disease. After diagnosis, the patient is expected to live for 12-21 months. There are different types of Mesothelioma, depending on the affected parts of the body. Peritoneal Mesothelioma affects the abdomen. The most common form of malignant Mesothelioma is pleural Mesothelioma. Mesothelioma can also affect the heart as well as the testicles.
Symptoms of Mesothelioma
There is not one single symptom that can determine whether you have cancer or not. Again, symptoms differ depending on the parts of the body that have been affected by Mesothelioma.
Pleural Mesothelioma affects the lungs and the heart. Patients with Pleural Mesothelioma often experience chest pains, shortness of breath, and coughing. They experience a lot of painful coughing. Sometimes unusual lumps also develop around the chest area under the skin. They suffer terrible weight loss.
This affects the abdomen, but the life expectancy of patients with Peritoneal Mesothelioma is better than Pleural Mesothelioma. With surgery and hyperthermic intraperitoneal chemotherapy (HIPEC), patients can live for more than five years. Patients with Peritoneal Mesothelioma often have bloating and pain around the abdominal area. When tests are run, unusual fluid is also detected in the abdominal cavity. Extreme weight loss is another major symptom.
Other Types of Mesothelioma
Apart from the ones mentioned above, there are different types of Mesothelioma.
Pericardial Mesothelioma affects the tissue around the heart called pericardium. This is one of the rarest forms of cancer, which is why the symptoms are not apparent. Patients have a very low life expectancy since the heart is affected in this case. Patients can live up to six months after diagnosis. Pericardial Mesothelioma cannot be cured, and only palliative treatments are available. Generally, patients experience severe chest pains, arrhythmias, and fluid is also detected in the heart sac.
The rarest form of cancer affects the testicle lining called tunica vaginalis. This type of Mesothelioma is so unique that only 100 cases have been recorded in medical history as of now. Although it is rare, the symptoms are apparent, and there is a prognosis of 2 years. Patients can live longer than those affected by other forms of Mesothelioma. Although life expectancy is better, the disease has a nasty habit of coming back. Patients experience pain and swelling around the testicles and scrotal area.
Causes of Mesothelioma
In general, cancer is caused when cells multiply out of control and form a tumor. Cells do not usually multiply out of control; this happens due to some changes in the DNA. These changes are called genetic mutations. Researchers have not been able to determine what causes these genetic mutations and changes in the DNA, but several factors increase your chances of developing Mesothelioma.
Risk Factors of Mesothelioma
Here Are Some Of The Factors That Put You At Risk:
Research has determined that asbestos exposure is one of the leading causes of developing Mesothelioma. Although there are many cases where people exposed to asbestos have never developed Mesothelioma. On the other hand, the majority of the patients or the others are exposed to asbestos. Asbestos is naturally found in the environment. It’s durable, and heat resistant properties make it an excellent choice for industrial products like shingles, brakes, flooring, and insulation. Asbestos is harmful when it is converted to dust. Exposure to this dust puts you at risk of cancer. These dust particles settle down in your stomach and heart; although you will not notice any symptoms or signs outright, you will experience discomfort and pain after 20-50 years. Asbestos can interfere with the mitosis process in the cells and cause mutations. It has also been found to be responsible for making mesothelial cells release mutagenic reactive nitrogen and oxygen, which results in a mutation.
Living With Someone Who is Constantly Exposed To Asbestos:
You can be yourself out at risk of Mesothelioma if you live with someone who handles asbestos and is exposed to it most of the time at work. The person will bring back home the fibers of the asbestos on their clothes. It is recommended that a person dealing with asbestos at work should shower before they leave employment so as not to put other family members at risk of cancer.
If anyone in your family had Mesothelioma, then you are predisposed to this condition.
If you received chemotherapy on your chest previously for some reason, you are at an increased risk of developing Mesothelioma.
Erionite is a specific type of zeolite which has been linked to cancer after various studies. Zeolite is a type of mineral that is known for its absorbing properties. It has a high composition of aluminum and silicone.
Simian Virus 40:
Recent studies have shown that there is a link between the simian virus and Mesothelioma. Patients who have been infected by the simian virus, 40, have in most cases also developed Mesothelioma.
High Aspect Ratio Nanoparticles:
These are also found to be responsible for causing Mesothelioma in individuals, although research is lacking in this field.
Unlike other cancers, Mesothelioma is not gender-specific, but studies have shown that it affects men more than women. This has to do with the fact that a large number of men are involved in working in industrial sites and constitution sites and are hence exposed to asbestos and non-asbestos materials more than women.
Poor Health And The Weak Immune System:
Individuals who have poor health, in general, are more at risk of developing Mesothelioma than other individuals who have a healthy immune system. The immune system is the first barrier to diseases if this system is weak, your body cannot put up a fight against foreign substances and viruses and will become susceptible to diseases.
Smoking causes lung cancer, that is proven, but does smoking cause Mesothelioma too? Studies show that although it cannot be directly linked to the fatal disease, it does put you at risk by weakening your lunch tissues, making it easier for asbestos dust to settle down and cause inflammation. Inflammation in the lungs will block free airflow and increase the production of mucus.
Young Adults Are Also At Risk:
It is a misconception that only the elderly are affected by this disease. Many young adults have also been diagnosed with this disease.
There is a particular gene whose primary role is to prevent cells from multiplying out of control and forming tumors, and that gene is called BAP1. Individuals whose BAP1 gene has undergone mutations will be more at risk of developing Mesothelioma.
Complications of Mesothelioma
If you happen to develop pleural Mesothelioma, you may face several complications; they are as follows:
- Patients with pleural Mesothelioma often have difficulty breathing since cancer spreads to the lining of the lungs; it soon affects the lungs and the heart.
- You may also have trouble swallowing and hence may lose your appetite.
- You will experience frequent chest pains that may be severe.
- Apart from chest pains, you will suffer nerve pain and pain in the spinal cord area.
- Breathing will be difficult due to pleural effusion. Pleural effusion is an accumulation of fluid in the lungs.
Prevention of Mesothelioma
A definite way to reduce your chances of developing Mesothelioma is by reducing your exposure to asbestos. Individuals who are usually employed or work as shipyard workers, plumbers, insulators, electricians, asbestos miners, home remodelers, demolition workers, brake mechanics, pipe fitters, and military personnel are more at risk of asbestos exposure. If your workplace requires you to handle asbestos, make sure that you follow all the safety guidelines at work. One of them is showering before you go home to get rid of the dust particles.
You must have noticed that older homes generally have asbestos roofs. Do not try to remove it yourself; you end up breaking it and reducing it to dust. Remember, asbestos dust is more harmful to your health than the whole asbestos that is not broken. If you want to remove asbestos, it is best to hire a professional.
Survival Rate of Mesothelioma
A patient’s survival rate depends on the stage of cancer, his overall health, and age, and also the treatments available. The treatments also get limited in the later stages; hence, a person must be diagnosed with Mesothelioma in the early stages to recover and live longer.
The general survival rate for Mesothelioma affected patients is 12-21 months. It should also be kept in mind that for younger and healthier individuals, they can withstand harsh treatments without breaking down, which cannot be said for older patients who are 55 or older.
Doctors classify the patients according to the stages:
- Stage 1: Means that cancer has not spread yet, and it is localized in the pleura.
- Stage 2: Means that cancer has already started spreading. It is beginning to affect one of the lungs.
- Stage 3: Cancer has spread to the lungs, the walls of the lung, and the cardiac cavity. In the last stage,
- Stage 4: Cancer has spread to the entire Cardiovascular system, the neck, and even bones. At a later stage
treatments available are only meant to alleviate pain and make life easier for patients
Treatments Available For Mesothelioma Patients
Surgery is only open for those that are in the early stages of cancer. In this case, doctors either remove parts of the affected organ or the entire tumor to stop it from spreading. Two types of mesothelioma surgeries have proven to be quite successful, extrapleural pneumonectomy and pleurectomy/ decortication.
Chemotherapy kills the remaining cancer cells to keep them from spreading and affecting other parts of the organ.
Much like chemotherapy, radiation therapy is also used to kill cancer cells. There are two types of radiation therapy– intensity-modulated radiation therapy and external beam radiation therapy.
In gene therapy, attempts are made to repair the mutated gene to prevent the disease from occurring. This treatment, although experimental, has been proven to be effective. The significant advantage of this treatment is that it does not have as many side effects as other treatments like chemotherapy and radiation therapy. Gene therapy includes gene transfer, oncolytic viruses, and genetic virotherapy.
Immunotherapy is focused on improvising the immune system of the patient. Immunotherapy includes monoclonal therapy, adoptive cell therapy, checkpoint inhibitors, and cancer vaccines.
This treatment is only meant for patients who are in the latter stages of their cancer. This treatment is mainly used to alleviate a patient’s pain. One of the most common types of Palliative treatment is paracentesis and pleurocentesis. Since Mesothelioma patients often have fluid buildup in the cardiac cavity, this treatment helps remove the excess fluid from the cavity. This alleviates the patient’s chest pain that is caused by fluid buildup.
When To See A Doctor?
If you have been experiencing these symptoms, do not be afraid just yet. Do not jump to conclusions before consulting a doctor and getting yourself evaluated. Sometimes these symptoms can mean some other underlying condition and may not even be related to Mesothelioma. It happens only in the rarest case. But if the symptoms have been persistent and you have had them for a long time, it is time to book an appointment at a health clinic.
Conclusion About Mesothelioma
Mesothelioma symptoms can be confusing, and you can confuse them with other conditions, but when the symptoms become aggressive and stop you from doing your day to day job, it is time to go to a doctor. Do not neglect the warning signs. If you get diagnosed early, more treatments are available, which can increase your survival rate to maybe even years! But if you ignore the signs and get diagnosed in the later stages of cancer, doctors will not be able to do much for you.
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