Malignant mesothelioma is a cancer in which the malignant cancer cells are found in the sac lining of the chest (referred to as pleural mesothelioma), the abdomen (also called abdominal mesothelima or peritoneal mesothelioma), or the heart (called pericardial mesothelioma).
Most people diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma have worked in factories or at military jobs where they inhaled asbestos fibers, or worked in the construction industry where asbestos was commonly used as an insulator for heating and cooling, or lived with a loved one who was exposed to asbestos fibers. The latter individuals are exposed to asbestos fibers from their spouses clothing while doing laundry or inhalation of residual fibers deposited on furniture, bedding, or automobile interiors.
The Range of Malignant Mesothelioma
While asbestos causes a variety of diseases, they range from non-cancerous types such as asbestosis, to much more serious forms of disease such as malignant mesothelioma.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), World Health Organization (WHO), and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) have determined that asbestos is a human carcinogen. A graphic from the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) showing death rate by state is shown below.
Asbestos and Malignant Mesothelioma
Although always suspected, by the 1960s, the association between asbestos and malignant mesothelioma cancer was clear. Today, it is well known that inhaling asbestos fibers can increase the risk of cancer and laws to protect the public which govern the use of asbestos have been enacted.
Those individuals suffering from asbestos exposure should be checked periodically with front and side view x-rays read by a Certified B-reader - a special certification for radiologists by the NIOSH. More information may be obtained on the their website at http://www.cdc.gov/NIOSH/. In addition to x-rays, pulmonary function tests, a complete physical exam, and an occupational and environmental history should be taken.
Early detection and treatment is essential in malignant mesothelioma diagnosis. It can greatly influence quality of life as well as long-term survival.