What exactly is mesothelioma?
Mesothelioma is one of the rarest and fatal types of cancer. It occurs in the thin lining of tissues surrounding the internal organs of the body. There are various kinds of mesothelioma that influence different organs. Some affect lungs linings and are called Pleura while the others affect abdominal tissues and are called Peritoneal Mesothelioma. Many of these types involve the heart, testicles, and other internal organs in the chest and abdominal space.
Mesothelioma is purely a cancerous tumor and it does not have the benign tumors or solitary fibrous tumor that maybe found in the chest or abdominal cavity. Though there is a treatment available for mesothelioma it can only help in controlling the growth of the tumor and in most cases, it is completely ineffective.
It is one of the most dangerous forms of cancer and is mostly incurable.
The only known reason for mesothelioma is the mineral asbestos. It is found that when a person consumes or comes in contact with asbestos it changes the DNA of that person. Any changes in DNA lead to abnormal growth and distribution of cells in the body which further leads to cancer. All our cell growths are dependent on our genes and even any slightest changes in the genes may become fatal for the person.
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Symptoms of Mesothelioma
Some of the common symptoms of mesothelioma are:
- A dry cough
- Difficulty in breathing
- Problems in respiratory tract
- Prolonged or high fever
- Excessive sweating at night
- Pleural effusion
- Tiredness and fatigue
- Muscle weakness
These symptoms do not occur soon after the exposure to asbestos and usually, the mesothelioma grows silently in your body. Its latency period is approx. 20 to 50 years which causes the delay in diagnosis.
Diagnosis of Mesothelioma
Consult your physician if you are experiencing the symptoms of mesothelioma. The initial physical exam is conducted by your doctor to locate any lumps in your body. Further, an x-ray or CT scan is suggested to further investigate any unusual growth. Later your body undergoes some more tests to make a correct diagnosis.
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Methods of Diagnosing Mesothelioma
A biopsy is the most effective and accurate procedure for diagnosing a tumor in the affected area. In this process, a small part of the unusual grown lump is extracted and tested in the laboratory.
There are various methods of biopsy and are applied according to the placement of the affected organ. Some of the methods are:
– Fine-Needle Aspiration
In this method fluid or tissue, pieces are extracted from your chest or abdomen with the help of a fine needle.
Thoracoscopy or video-assisted thoracoscopic surgery (VATS) is a small surgical procedure in which a camera is inserted in your chest with an incision and a small piece of affected tissue is extracted with surgical tools.
Laparoscopy is a small surgical procedure in which a camera is inserted in your abdomen with an incision and a small piece of affected tissue is extracted with surgical tools.
Thoracotomy is a surgery to directly investigate the signs of disease in the chest. Usually, a sample of tissue is obtained for further testing.
Laparotomy is a surgery to directly investigate the signs of disease in the abdominal cavity. Usually, a sample of tissue is obtained for further testing.
After your biopsy when your mesothelioma is diagnosed further tests are recommended to investigate the affected area. These tests include:
- CT scans of the chest and abdomen
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
- Positron emission tomography (PET)
Treatments for Mesothelioma
There are various treatments available for mesothelioma which inhibits the growth of cancer and prolongs the life of the patient. Some most popular treatments are:
Patients with good health and early diagnosis of mesothelioma can benefit greatly from the surgical removal of the tumor. It is the most effective cure which increases the survival chances.
Chemotherapy is a drug treatment which uses powerful drugs to inhibit the growth of cancerous cells. It is the most used treatment for curing cancers.
Radiation therapy reduces the risk of reoccurrence of the disease after the surgery. It also reduces the pains associated with growing tumors.
Immunotherapy is a drug treatment to increase the immunity of the body against cancer.
The multimodal therapy combines two or more treatment options and yields good results. There are two common multimodal therapies:
- HIPEC combines surgery and chemotherapy, and
- Palliative Treatment combines surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy.
The fact of the matter is that mesothelioma has no cure but an early diagnosis can greatly help in managing your condition in a more efficient way.
So, be sure to talk to your doctor if you notice any symptoms or work in an environment with asbestos exposure.