Mesothelioma cancer is a rare form of cancer that has been attributed to the exposure to asbestos fibers. Many medical professionals believe that mesothelioma cancer can only be contracted through the inhalation of asbestos into the lungs; practically all cases of mesothelioma cancer have been connected with workers whose jobs have exposed them to abnormally high levels of asbestos.
Mesothelioma is a very rare form of cancer that has approximately 4000 reported cases each year in the United States. Mesothelioma cancer can be broken down into three subcategories: Peritoneal mesothelioma, Pleural mesothelioma, and Pericardeal mesothelioma. Of the three, Pleural mesothelioma cancer is responsible for 75% of all mesothelioma cases.
The types of cancer are named after where each is located in the body. For example, Pleural mesothelioma is found in the cavities inside the chest which surround the lungs. These areas are called the pleural cavities; the pleura is the thin membrane sac which contains the lungs.
Peritoneal mesothelioma affects the peritoneum, a thin cell membrane which surrounds the gastrointestinal tract. The peritoneum helps lubricate the stomach and intestines, helping the body properly digest food. Peritoneal mesothelioma composes approximately 15-20% of all diagnosed cases of mesothelioma cancer in the United States.
Pericardial mesothelioma is the rarest of all diagnosed cases. The pericardium is the protective sac around the heart. The main function of the pericardium is to lubricate the heart, allowing the muscle to work at a more efficient level. This type of mesothelioma only composes 5% of all diagnosed cases.
As with all cancers, mesothelioma in it’s various forms is simply the uncontrolled growth of cells. Typically, cells in the body grow and then die, however cancer cells grow unabated and are typically damaged by radiation or some chemical change. Mesothelioma cancer is caused by asbestos fiber entering the body through inhalation; once inside the body the asbestos fibers cut the protective sacs surrounding the organs. Mesothelium are small cells which help lubricate the pleura, peritoneum, and pericardium. These small cells become cancerous and rapidly expand, preventing the vital functions of the affected organs.
Mesothelioma can take decades to develop after an initial exposure to asbestos occurs. This prevents many people from recognizing the warning signs that they might be developing the disease. Each of the forms mentioned above has a different sets of symptoms, many of which match less serious diseases. The prognosis for mesothelioma found early is longer than cases caught later in their development, however the mortality rate for mesothelioma is notoriously high. Medical breakthroughs are attempting to increase the life expectancy and quality of life for sufferers of mesothelioma, however there is currently no cure.
People who worked in an environment with heavy amounts of asbestos or who were exposed to asbestos fibers at any point are at risk for developing mesothelioma. The various types of mesothelioma cancer have different symptoms, so if you or a loved one has been exposed to asbestos please find more information about your symptoms.
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