What is Mesothelioma?

John J. Jones

Mesolthelioma is a form of cancer caused by exposure to asbestos. Asbestos is made up of tiny fibers, often used to make insulation in homes, schools and other buildings. This disease attacks the lining of the heart, lungs and abdomen.

Mesothelioma affects the lining of the heart and lungs.
Mesothelioma affects the lining of the heart and lungs.

Since asbestos can be found in basic building materials, those at risk for mesolthelioma are largely, but not limited to, construction workers who built our buildings through the seventies. The danger of using this natural occurring mineral was either unkonwn or ignored by health officials. One danger of the disease is that the symptoms are similar to those of general aging, and many people tend to ignore them until more severe, and potentially fatal symptoms occur. It is generally recommended that if you were exposed to asbestos in your younger years, you should have a doctor investigate symptoms similar to any of those described below.

Mesothelioma can cause stomach pain.
Mesothelioma can cause stomach pain.

There are several types of malignant mesothelioma.

Wearing a respirator mask when working with asbestos can prevent the development of mesothelioma.
Wearing a respirator mask when working with asbestos can prevent the development of mesothelioma.

Pleural Mesothelioma, or cancer of the lung lining, may cause shortness of breath, fluid build-up, chest pain, hoarseness, coughing up blood, muscle weakness, paralysis, sensory loss and swelling of the face and arms. There are two types of surgeries that are commonly performed to cure this disease, both of which involve removing portions of the lungs. The first operation is called a pleurectomy/decortication, which involves the removal of part of the lung lining in order to remove the tumor. The second surgery is called an extrapleural pneumonectomy. During this particular surgery, the lining, diaphragm, pericardium, and the whole lung may be removed in order to completely remove the tumor.

An ultrasound may be used to diagnose pleural mesothelioma.
An ultrasound may be used to diagnose pleural mesothelioma.

Peritoneal Mesothelioma, or cancer of the abdominal lining, can cause stomach pain, weight loss, nausea, vomiting, hernia, fluid in the abdominal cavity or a mass in the abdomen. A surgery known as a laparotomy may be performed during which the doctor will open up the abdomen to remove the entire tumor.

Pericardial Mesothelioma, or cancer of the heart lining, is very rare, but can cause shortness of breath and chest pain. A surgery called an extrapleural pneumonectomy can be preformed to remove the tumor.

With all Pericardial, Peritoneal and Pleural Mesothelioma, radiation treatments and chemotherapy are also options. Today, the government has strict laws limiting and prohibiting the use of asbestos in building products. Removal of asbestos products from existing buildings is also heavily regulated.

Some forms of mesothelioma can cause shortness of breath and chest pains.
Some forms of mesothelioma can cause shortness of breath and chest pains.

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Discussion Comments


One of my mom's close friends was diagnosed with mesothelioma last month. She had been experiencing a lot of pain in her lungs and the doctors first found that her lungs were retaining water. Some more tests and a biopsy showed that she has cancerous mesothelioma. She's now getting chemotherapy.

We have known this family for a long time and we are very close. Everyone is so devastated and we're all trying to help her get through this. There isn't too much that we can do other than provide support and keep her in good spirits. I do believe she will get through this though.

I have been learning about mesothelioma and I've read many mesothelioma survival stories about people who were able to beat this cancer and are living healthy, happy lives now. I believe there is always hope and my heart goes out to anyone who is experiencing this disease and their families as well.


@fify-- Yes, the symptoms of mesothelioma can take a really long time to show up. I've even heard of cases where it took 40 to 50 years! That's a very long time and that's also why this cancer type is so dangerous. Because by the time people realize what's going on, it could be too late for treatment.

There are still people who are being diagnosed with mesothelioma. But I think that there has been an increased awareness about it in the last ten years or so. People who think they might have had exposure to it are going to get tested. This is the only way to catch the cancer at an early stage and seek treatment.

Of course, this also requires that people know what "exposure" means and when to know if their health is in danger. In the UK, for example, they've written a report about patients with mesothelioma diagnosis who had exposure to esbestos because they lived in close proximity to an esbestos factor. They got sick even though they didn't work with esbestos or live in buildings in which esbestos was used.

My grandfather died from mesothelioma in the lungs. He worked in buildings made with asbestos for many years. My grandmother says that he was fine for a long time and only got sick around his sixties. But that means that more than a decade had passed since he inhaled esbestos to when he was diagnosed with mesothelioma.

Why does it take so long? Does the cancer just take a long time to develop or only the symptoms?

He was able to take the company he worked with to court and did get a mesothelioma settlement. But he passed away just a few years later.


Well explained about what is mesoththelioma?. Very informative report about mesothelioma and its symptoms.

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