Mesothelioma: The Basics

Author: OncoLink Team
Last Reviewed:

Mesothelioma is caused by mesothelial cells growing out of control. The mesothelium is a protective sac. It covers organs inside the body such as:

  • stomach organs
  • lungs
  • male sex glands
  • heart

When these cells grow out of control, they can no longer stop making lubricating fluid. This turns into extra fluid and tumor.

Mesothelioma that has spread to some other part of the body from its first site is called metastatic cancer.

Risks

The biggest risk is having been around asbestos. Mesothelioma may not be found until many years after you were near asbestos. Other risks:

  • Radiation to the chest
  • Care for TB (collapsotherapy)
  • Some viruses or certain minerals (erionite)

Screening

There are no standard tests.

Signs of Mesothelioma

The first signs of mesothelioma of the lungs are pain and it being hard to breathe. Other signs:

  • Weight loss
  • Dry, hacking cough

Signs of mesothelioma of the belly:

  • Belly swelling
  • Pain
  • Weight loss

Diagnosis of Mesothelioma

If you start to have signs of mesothelioma, tests will be ordered:

  • X-ray
  • CT scan
  • A test to check the fluid around your lungs. This is called a thoracentesis.
  • A test where you take a small group of cells to check for cancer. Also called a biopsy.

Staging Mesothelioma

To make a treatment plan, mesothelioma of the lungs is "staged." The stage is based on:

  • Size and where the tumor is
  • If cancer is found in the lymph nodes
  • If cancer is found in other parts of the body

Stages range from stage 0 to stage IV. There is no standard staging for other types of mesothelioma.

Treatment

Treatment depends on the stage, where it is, and the person’s health. Choices:

  • Surgery to remove tumor and the organ with cancer
  • Radiation
  • Chemotherapy

This is a basic article about mesothelioma. You can learn more about mesothelioma by using the links below.

All About Mesothelioma

Surgical Procedures: Surgery and Staging for Malignant Mesothelioma

 

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