Malignant Mesothelioma

Malignant mesothelioma is a rare form of cancer that attacks the outer lining of vital organs in the body. The outer lining known as the mesothelium serves as a protective sac that houses organs such as the lungs, heart and abdomen. The most common form of malignant mesothelioma is pleural mesothelioma, which attacks the outer lining of the lungs.

All cases of mesothelioma are considered to be malignant or cancerous. The cancer starts as a tumor and spreads rapidly to other areas of the body.

Other tumors or growths found in the mesothelium used to be referred to as "benign fibrous mesothelioma" and "multicystic mesothelioma,” until research proved non-cancerous cells do not originate in the mesothelium and are therefore not mesothelioma.

These types of tumors or cysts are typically non-cancerous and will not spread to other tissues and organs as will malignant mesothelioma.

Cause of Malignant Mesothelioma

Malignant mesothelioma is a direct result of asbestos exposure. Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral that, when in its natural state, is not harmful. It is composed of strands of toxic fibers. If broken down or disturbed, the fibers separate and form a type of dust that can be easily ingested or inhaled.

If inhaled, the loose fibers can settle in the linings of the lungs, abdomen or heart and over time, can lead to the development of malignant mesothelioma. It can take up to 50 years for malignant mesothelioma to form, and when it does, it spreads rapidly and is extremely difficult to treat.

Malignant Mesothelioma Symptoms

The symptoms can be difficult to detect as most of the symptoms are not unique to mesothelioma. Most of the symptoms of mesothelioma can be attributed to the common cold or flu and are often over looked until it is too late and the cancer has spread to other parts of the body.

Following is a list of some of the symptoms associated with malignant mesothelioma:

  • Chest or stomach pain
  • Fluid in the chest, lungs or abdomen
  • Excessive coughing or wheezing
  • Difficulty breathing, shortness of breath
  • Weakness, chronic body aches
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Loss of appetite, weight loss

If you or someone you know is experiencing any of the above symptoms and have been exposed to any form of asbestos, tell your physician right away.

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