What is Mesothelioma?
Malignant mesothelioma is a very rare cancer that occurs in the thin layer of tissue that covers the majority
of our internal organs (mesothelium).
Mesothelioma is an aggressive and lethal form of cancer. Mesothelioma treatments are available, but for many people
with mesothelioma, a cure is not presently possible.
Most researchers and doctors divide mesothelioma into different types based on what part of the mesothelium
is affected in the body. Mesothelioma most often affects the tissue that surrounds the lungs (pleura). This type of cancer
is called pleural malignant mesothelioma. Other, rarer types of mesothelioma affect tissue in the abdomen (peritoneal mesothelioma),
around the human heart and around the testicles.
Mesothelioma doesn't include a form of noncancerous (benign) tumor that occurs in the chest and is sometimes
called benign mesothelioma or solitary fibrous tumor.
What Are the Symptoms of Mesothelioma?
Signs and symptoms of mesothelioma vary depending on where the cancer
occurs. For instance:
Pleural mesothelioma, which affects the
tissue that surrounds the lungs, causes signs and symptoms that may include:
- Chest pain under the rib cage
- Painful coughing
- Shortness of breath
- Unusual lumps of tissue under the skin on your chest
- Unexplained weight loss
- Unexplained fatique
Peritoneal mesothelioma, which occurs in tissue in the abdomen, causes signs and symptoms that may include:
- Abdominal pain
- Abdominal swelling
- Lumps of tissue in the abdomen
Other forms of mesothelioma
Signs and symptoms of other types of mesothelioma are unclear, since these forms of the disease are very
rare. Pericardial mesothelioma, which affects tissue that surrounds the heart, can cause signs and symptoms such as breathing
difficulty and chest pains. Mesothelioma of tunica vaginalis, which affects tissue surrounding the testicles, may be first
detected as swelling or a mass on a testicle.
What Are the Risk Factors?
Researchers Believe Asbestos May be the primary risk factor for mesothelioma. Asbestos is a mineral that's found naturally in the environment. Asbestos fibers are strong and resistant to heat, making them useful in a wide variety of applications, such as in insulation,
brakes, shingles, flooring and many other products.
When asbestos is broken up, such as during the mining process or when removing asbestos insulation, dust
may be created. If the dust is inhaled or swallowed, the asbestos fibers will settle in the lungs or in the stomach, where
they can cause irritation that may lead to mesothelioma. Exactly how this happens isn't understood. It can take 30 to 40 years
or more for mesothelioma to develop after asbestos exposure.
Most people with years of asbestos exposure never develop mesothelioma. And yet, others with
very brief exposure develop the disease. This indicates that other factors may be involved in determining whether someone
gets mesothelioma or doesn't. For instance, you could inherit a predisposition to cancer or some other condition could increase
During World War II the military began using products with asbestos in them. However, starting in the 1930s and continuing
through the 1970s, the military used asbestos in almost all of their construction projects, maintenance and renovations. All
transportation vehicles used by the military also contained asbestos.
Where Was Asbestos Used In the Military
- Brake and clutch pads on military Jeeps
- Military Tanks
- Electrical wiring insulation
- Military aircrafts
- Military equipment used for aircrafts
- Insulation in military buildings
- Boiler rooms on naval fleets
Veterans who built and maintained military warships were at risk
due to the asbestos exposure. The pipe-fitting and boilers on military ships contained asbestos. Veterans who were not performing
their duties in the ships' boiler rooms still dealt with the moving of the cargo. With the constant vibrations and simple
corrosion over time, these invisible airborne asbestos fibers were easily inhaled by anyone who was aboard these ships during
groups of veterans who worked on or near renovations and demolitions had a high risk of asbestos exposure since most of the
building materials the military used contained asbestos in one way or another, and were being demolished, removed or renovated.
See your VSO for more details about mesothelioma.