Mesothelioma is a rare type of cancer that afflicts thousands of people every year. This type of cancer is usually extremely malignant, and those who are diagnosed with mesothelioma disease die within just a few years. In almost all cases, this cancer is caused by exposure to the construction material asbestos. Many people who were exposed to asbestos in their younger years end up developing mesothelioma disease or other, similar problems many decades later (anywhere from 20 to 50 years). Despite the gap between exposure and the development of the cancer, it is undoubtedly asbestos that causes mesothelioma.
Mesothelioma disease specifically affects a part of the body called the mesothelium. This is the name of a type of membrane in the body that surrounds the heart, lungs, abdomen, and internal reproductive organs. Normally, the membrane exists in order to provide some flex space for organs to move around in the body. However, when a person breathes in asbestos fibers, they become lodged in the lungs and the mesothelium. There, they can sit for a long time, and their naturally toxic nature eventually leads to mesothelioma and other diseases.
Mesothelioma disease can affect any of the areas of the body that are protected by mesothelium – whether the membrane around the heart, around the lungs, or around the abdomen. Regardless of where it appears, it is almost always fatal. It is especially dangerous when it appears around the heart, because it is more difficult to treat. This is because the tumors that develop are so close to the heart, and thus hard to remove through surgery.
Certain types of mesothelioma disease do not have a specific link to asbestos. For example, papillary mesothelioma is a rare type of mesothelioma that can afflict people who have never been exposed to asbestos. Fortunately, this type of the cancer is often benign and while it has a high rate of recurrence it is often nonfatal.
The symptoms of mesothelioma disease depend on the part of the body that is affected. The symptoms of mesothelioma of the lungs can include shortness of breath, pleura effusion, chest pains, and frequent coughing. When the cancer appears in the pericardial cavity (around the heart), symptoms are similar but also include hearth palpitations and more severe pains. Finally, mesothelioma disease of the abdomen can lead to pain and swelling of the abdomen, obstruction of the bowel, nausea, and other problems.