Treatment options are limited for mesothelioma patients. This deadly form of cancer develops in the lining of the heart, lungs, or abdomen. Studies have shown that over 80 percent of the individuals who have worked with asbestos-containing materials are now suffering from mesothelioma and other diseases. The first signs of cancer appear decades after the initial exposure to asbestos.
Individuals who have been exposed to high concentrations of asbestos can develop pleural, peritoneal, or pericardial mesothelioma. Approximately 3,000 people are diagnosed with pleural mesothelioma each year. This disease attacks the membrane that covers the lungs. The most common symptoms associated with this form of asbestos cancer include persistent coughing, cheat pain, accumulation of fluid in the lungs, anemia, and blood in the sputum.
Peritoneal mesothelioma affects approximately 20 percent of all individuals diagnosed with asbestos cancer. This aggressive disease starts in the lining of the abdomen. Some experts believe that peritoneal mesothelioma occurs when asbestos fibers are swallowed or ingested. This form of cancer causes unexplained weight loss, constipation, diarrhea, nausea, bowel obstruction, abdominal pain, nausea, and vomiting.
Pericardial mesothelioma accounts for five to 10 percent of all cases. Like other forms of asbestos cancer, this aggressive disease is common in those who have been exposed to asbestos for long periods of time. Pericardial mesothelioma affects the layer of cells surrounding the heart. Less than 200 individuals worldwide have been diagnosed with this form of cancer. Its main symptoms include heart palpitations, arrhythmia, chronic cough, loss of appetite, and night sweats.
Diagnosing and treating mesothelioma is a challenging task for most doctors. This rare disease manifests itself 20 to 50 years after exposure to asbestos. Prognosis depends on the stage of the cancer, the location and extent of the tumor, the amount of fluid in the chest, the type of mesothelioma cancer cells, and the patient's age and health condition. The degree to which the cancer has spread affects the patient's life expectancy as well.
Finding the best treatment may involve seeing an oncologist, a radiologist, or a lung specialist. A variety of tests are necessary to confirm a diagnosis. The available treatment options focus on destroying malignant cells and improving the patient's quality of life. Most doctors use radiation, chemotherapy, and surgery to remove cancer cells and preserve healthy tissues. Surgery can be performed in early stages of the disease.
Doctors often recommend high doses of radiation to kill malignant cells and stop them from dividing. Large areas of affected tissue can be covered with radiation treatment. This medical procedure relieves pain and reduces shortness of breath.
This form of treatment helps control the growth of the tumor and makes it easier to remove. Chemotherapy can be used before and after surgery to reduce the chances of the cancer coming back. Cyclophosphamide, Raltitrexed, and Irinotecan are often used in treating mesothelioma patients.
Surgical treatment is not suitable for patients diagnosed with mesothelioma in late stages. Doctors use surgery to remove the tumor, relieve chest pain, and control fluid build.
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