Mesothelioma Treatment and Symptoms

By Izzie • General, Health • 8 Apr 2013

Mesothelioma is a cancer caused by exposure to asbestos, a mineral that was used extensively in building and construction and is now banned in the United States. In mesothelioma, cancer attacks the tissue, called the mesothelium, that lines organs like the heart, stomach, and lungs.

Mesothelioma symptoms depend on the organ whose mesothelium is being attacked. They can include a cough that won’t go away, stomach pain or pain beneath the ribs, abdominal swelling, unexplained weight loss and fever, anemia and difficulty in catching ones breath. In some cases, the blood might not clot properly. If a doctor suspects that a patient has mesothelioma, he or she can order a medical exam which includes tests to check the function of the lungs, X-rays, blood tests, CAT scans or MRIs. Biopsies, which remove small amounts of tissue to be tested by a pathologist, can also help with a diagnosis of mesothelioma.

Mesothelioma is treated like many other cancers. Mesothelioma treatment can include surgery, chemotherapy, radiation or all three. If fluid collects painfully in the abdomen or the chest, it can be removed.

With chemotherapy, the anticancer drugs can be injected into a vein or right into the area of the body where the cancer has been found. It can be directed into the chest or the abdomen through a catheter. This allows the doctor to treat the malignancy with higher doses of the drug than would be possible if the drug were given intravenously. Sometimes, chemotherapy drugs are given to the patient right before or after surgery.

In radiation therapy, radiation is used to kill the cancer or to give the patient relief from pain and other mesothelioma symptoms.

Because mesothelioma can affect several organs, there are several types of surgeries to remove it. As with radiation, surgery can be performed to remove the cancer or to give the patient relief.

Mesothelioma is a serious disease. It can take as long as 50 years for symptoms to develop after exposure to asbestos. When symptoms do arrive they are usually a sign that the disease is far advanced. Though there are treatments for the condition, there’s no cure and mesothelioma life expectancy isn’t long. After diagnosis, most patients live for about a year. Some unfortunately people live for only a month or two. The survival rate after five years is only about 10 percent.

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