The Scourge Of Mesothelioma
Mesothelioma is a disease of the lungs brought on by the victim having been exposed to asbestos. It can develop into cancer, which resides in the membrane lining of the lungs and abdomen. The malignant form is the most serious of all of the diseases that are related to asbestos.
This disease is caused by the exposure to asbestos, primarily in industrial situations where the worker is working around the substance for a long period of time. Asbestos is a microscopic material that lodges in the pleural lining of the lungs and in the abdominal cavity int the peritoneal lining. It can take years for the disease to develop from these small parts that lodge in the mesothelium.
In a factory setting, or in a shipyard for example, the asbestos fibers float around in the air and are inhaled by the workers. This situation does not exist anymore in industry, but during the World War II days, it was common in the manufacture of war equipment and ships. Also, the washing of the clothes of family members would expose the rest of the family to the disease.
It can be very difficult for doctors to diagnose the disease, because the symptoms often mimic other diseases, it takes a long time to materialize, and many times people don’t have serious symptoms until the disease is quite serious. Nearly 75% of all incidence of the disease is what is called pleural mesothelioma, which is concerned with the protective lining of the lung. The pericardial form of the disease, affects the cardiac cavity near the heart.
The heart, the chest and the abdominal cavities are surrounded by a membrane called the mesothelium. These membranes have cells that help out with the normal functioning of various organs. The mesothelium is very important in regard to organs that are usually in motion, such as the contraction and expansion of the lungs, heart, and stomach.
The lubrication from the cells of the mesothelium allows these organs to have free range of motion withing those cavities. The proper functioning of the various organs within these areas depend upon a healthy and properly working mesothelium.
When cancer occurs in the mesothelium, it is malignant the majority of the time. There are situations where the tumors are benign, but for the most part they are malignant. There were incidents of cancer cases in the mesothelium that are recorded as far back as the 18th century, but it was not really identified as being linked to asbestos until the middle of the 20th century. This was when modern medical science was able to analyze just what was causing it, and when it could be linked to the exposure of asbestos.
It is still somewhat rare to contract the disease, in relation to all of the other kinds of cancers, with only about 2,500 to 3,000 people being diagnosed with the disease per year. Between 1970 and 1984 there was an increase in cases reported, largely because of industrial exposure that had occurred some 40 to 60 years prior to that time.
The asbestos exposure was higher during the World War II era, and extremely high in the Naval shipyards during that era. The disease is much more common in men over the age of 60, simply because it was men who worked in asbestos related industries. There is even instances of cases reported in women and children where secondary exposure was evident. The men would bring the asbestos back home in their clothing or on their bodies, particularly if there were inadequate cleaning facilities at the industrial site.
The diagnosis of the disease is found through a comprehensive diagnostic process of imaging scans and biopsies. It can be difficult to find because of its ability to mimic other respiratory diseases. The pathology is difficult to distinguish between a adenocarcinoma, or cancer of the lung. Unfortunately, misdiagnosis can be fairly common. Symptoms include chest pain, shortness of breath, effusions in the abdomen and chest, chronic cough, and lung fluid with the presence of blood.
The symptoms of the disease in the abdominal area include weight loss, swelling of the abdomen, due to fluid buildup, bowel obstruction, blood clotting abnormalities, anemia, trouble swallowing, swelling of the neck and face, and fever.
Biopsy will usually have to be done to determine what type of cells are present, if they are malignant, and how far advanced the disease may be. Also an MRI, or a magnetic resonance image, or a CT scan (computer topography), or a PET scan (positron emission tomography)is required to determine how far the disease has spread and its location.
The disease does not usually spread beyond the pleural or abdominal areas, such as into the bone, brain or other organs. The tumors are also found only on one side of the lungs.
While there is no actual cure for the disease, it is manageable, even though it is an aggressive disease. The treatment options include surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy. As of this time a combination of Alimta and Cisplatin are the only chemotherapy treatments that are approved by the FDA, yet there are several clinical trials that are underway. Radiation therapy is also an option and can be use in conjunction with chemotherapy, depending upon the diagnosis and location.
Surgical procedures are usually only available in the early stages of the disease. Palliative and diagnostic procedures are performed in patients with malignancies to minimize the symptoms of the cancer. Once the treatment for the disease is begun, it is likely that the patient will be continuing treatment until the disease takes its course and results in the death of the individual.
For individuals who suffer from mesothelioma, there can be compensation available, through the legal system, although in many cases it is difficult to prosecute due to the time elapsed and difficulty in the diagnosis of the disease. The majority of successful lawsuits have taken place as class-action affairs with varying results. If a person is diagnosed with the disease, it won’t hurt to find out if you can get compensation by contacting an attorney.