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What is Mesothelioma?

What is Mesothelioma?
Mesothelioma is an aggressive form of cancer. The disease has only one known cause - exposure to asbestos. It can take 20 to 50 years for a person to develop and show symptoms of mesothelioma. About 3,200 patients are newly diagnosed each year in the U.S.

Where in the Body Does Mesothelioma Develop?

Mesothelioma occurs in the mesothelium, which is the thin layer of tissue that covers most of our internal organs. There are 3 main types of mesothelioma. The name of each type is defined by the location of the cancer:

Symptoms by Type

The 3 forms of mesothelioma can share similar symptoms but also have some important differences you should be aware of:

Pleural symptoms
  •     Chest pain under the rib cage
  •     Painful coughing
  •     Shortness of breath
  •     Unusual lumps of tissue under the skin on your chest
  •     Unexplained weight loss
  •     Fluid around the lungs
  •     Fatigue
  •     Difficulty swallowing
Peritoneal symptoms
  •     Abdominal pain
  •     Abdominal swelling or fluid
  •     Lumps of tissue in the abdomen
  •     Unexplained weight loss
  •     Nausea and vomiting
Pericardial symptoms
  •     Difficulty breathing and swallowing
  •     Chest pain
  •     Coughing
  •     Irregular heartbeat
  •     Fatigue
  •     Night sweats and fever

Locations of Mesothelioma

It is important to note that other types of mesothelioma exist, such as mesothelioma of tunica vaginalis of the testis. Because these forms are extremely rare, we have not included them here.

Prognosis: What Can You Expect?

A word you will hear a lot when learning about mesothelioma is "prognosis." This is a medical term for predicting the likely outcome of your illness. The prognosis for mesothelioma is always best when the disease is recognized and treated early.
The challenge with early detection, however, is that for most people, symptoms can take up to 50 years to appear. So by the time a person notices symptoms and the cancer is confirmed, it is often too late for effective treatment.
Life expectancy depends on the stage of the tumor. Mesothelioma tumors are staged on a scale from 1 to 4, based on the size and location of the tumor and whether the cancer has spread to other areas of the body or nearby lymph nodes.

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