General Information About Malignant Mesothelioma
Mesothelioma: General Information, Symptoms and Diagnosis
* Malignant mesothelioma is a disease in which malignant (cancer) cells form in the lining of the chest or abdomen.
* Being exposed to asbestos can affect the risk of developing malignant mesothelioma.
* Possible signs of malignant mesothelioma include shortness of breath and pain under the rib cage.
* Tests that examine the inside of the chest and abdomen are used to detect (find) and diagnose malignant mesothelioma.
* Certain factors affect prognosis (chance of recovery) and treatment options.
Malignant mesothelioma is a disease in which malignant (cancer) cells form in the lining of the chest or abdomen.
Malignant mesothelioma is a disease in which malignant (cancer) cells are found in the pleura (the thin layer of tissue that lines the chest cavity and covers the lungs) or the peritoneum (the thin layer of tissue that lines the abdomen and covers most of the organs in the abdomen). This summary is about malignant mesothelioma of the pleura.
Respiratory anatomy; drawing shows right lung with upper, middle, and lower lobes; left lung with upper and lower lobes; and the trachea, bronchi, lymph nodes, and diaphragm. Inset shows bronchioles, alveoli, artery, and vein.
Anatomy of the respiratory system, showing the trachea and both lungs and their lobes and airways. Lymph nodes and the diaphragm are also shown. Oxygen is inhaled into the lungs and passes through the thin membranes of the alveoli and into the bloodstream (see inset).
Being exposed to asbestos can affect the risk of developing malignant mesothelioma.
Many people with malignant mesothelioma have worked or lived in places where they inhaled or swallowed asbestos. After being exposed to asbestos, it usually takes a long time for malignant mesothelioma to occur. Other risk factors for malignant mesothelioma include the following:
* Living with a person who works near asbestos.
* Being exposed to a certain virus.
Possible signs of malignant mesothelioma include shortness of breath and pain under the rib cage.
Sometimes the cancer causes fluid to collect around the lung or in the abdomen. These symptoms may be caused by the fluid or malignant mesothelioma. Other conditions may cause the same symptoms. A doctor should be consulted if any of the following problems occur:
* Trouble breathing.
* Pain under the rib cage.
* Pain or swelling in the abdomen.
* Lumps in the abdomen.
* Weight loss for no known reason.
Tests that examine the inside of the chest and abdomen are used to detect (find) and diagnose malignant mesothelioma.
Sometimes it is hard to tell the difference between malignant mesothelioma and lung cancer. The following tests and procedures may be used:
* Physical exam and history: An exam of the body to check general signs of health, including checking for signs of disease, such as lumps or anything else that seems unusual. A history of the patientâ€™s health habits, exposure to asbestos, past illnesses and treatments will also be taken.
* Chest x-ray: An x-ray of the organs and bones inside the chest. An x-ray is a type of energy beam that can go through the body and onto film, making a picture of areas inside the body.
Chest x-ray; shows patient standing with back to the x-ray machine. X-rays are used to take pictures of organs and bones of the chest. X-rays pass through the patient onto film.
X-ray of the chest. X-rays are used to take pictures of organs and bones of the chest. X-rays pass through the patient onto film.
* Complete blood count (CBC): A procedure in which a sample of blood is drawn and checked for the following:
o The number of red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets.
o The amount of hemoglobin (the protein that carries oxygen) in the red blood cells.
o The portion of the blood sample made up of red blood cells.
* Sedimentation rate: A procedure in which a sample of blood is drawn and checked for the rate at which the red blood cells settle to the bottom of the test tube.
* Biopsy: The removal of cells or tissues from the pleura or peritoneum so they can be viewed under a microscope by a pathologist to check for signs of cancer. Procedures used to collect the cells or tissues include the following:
o Fine-needle aspiration biopsy: The removal of part of a lump, suspicious tissue, or fluid, using a thin needle. This procedure is also called a needle biopsy.
o Thoracoscopy: An incision (cut) is made between two ribs and a thoracoscope (a thin, lighted tube) is inserted into the chest.
o Peritoneoscopy: An incision (cut) is made in the abdominal wall and a peritoneoscope (a thin, lighted tube) is inserted into the abdomen.
o Laparotomy: An incision (cut) is made in the wall of the abdomen to check the inside of the abdomen for signs of disease.
o Thoracotomy: An incision (cut) is made between two ribs to check inside the chest for signs of disease.
* Bronchoscopy: A procedure to look inside the trachea and large airways in the lung for abnormal areas. A bronchoscope (a thin, lighted tube) is inserted through the nose or mouth into the trachea and lungs. Tissue samples may be taken for biopsy.
Bronchoscopy; drawing shows a bronchoscope inserted through the mouth, trachea, and bronchus into the lung; lymph nodes along trachea and bronchi; and cancer in one lung. Inset shows patient lying on a table having a bronchoscopy.
Bronchoscopy. A bronchoscope is inserted through the mouth, trachea, and major bronchi into the lung, to look for abnormal areas. A bronchoscope is a thin, tube-like instrument with a light and a lens for viewing. It may also have a cutting tool. Tissue samples may be taken to be checked under a microscope for signs of disease.
* Cytologic exam: An exam of cells under a microscope (by a pathologist) to check for anything abnormal. For mesothelioma, fluid is taken from around the lungs or from the abdomen. A pathologist checks the cells in the fluid.
Certain factors affect prognosis (chance of recovery) and treatment options.
The prognosis (chance of recovery) and treatment options depend on the following:
* The stage of the cancer.
* The size of the tumor.
* Whether the tumor can be removed completely by surgery.
* The amount of fluid in the chest or abdomen.
* The patient's age and general health, including lung and heart health.
* The type of mesothelioma cancer cells and how they look under a microscope.
* Whether the cancer has just been diagnosed or has recurred (come back).
This site contains information produced by the US National Cancer Institute and compiled by the site owners.
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