Mesothelioma

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Mesothelioma facts

  • Mesothelioma is a cancer that arises from the cells lining the chest or abdominal cavities.
  • Mesothelioma typically results from exposure to asbestos.
  • When mesothelioma affects the chest, the doctor may look inside the chest cavity with a special instrument called a thoracoscope.
  • When mesothelioma affects the abdomen, the doctor may look inside the abdomen with a special tool called a peritoneoscope.
  • Mesothelioma is diagnosed by a biopsy.
  • The outlook for patients with mesothelioma depends on how early the disease is detected and how aggressively it is treated.

What is mesothelioma?

Mesothelioma is a rare form of cancer (malignancy) that most frequently arises from the cells lining the sacs of the chest (the pleura) or the abdomen (the peritoneum). Pleural mesothelioma is the most common form, often presenting with symptoms in the chest area. Peritoneal mesothelioma is much less common. This can affect the organs in the abdomen, and its symptoms are related to this area of the body, that is, abdominal swelling, nausea, vomiting, and bowel obstruction. The rarest form of mesothelioma is pericardial mesothelioma, which involves the sac surrounding the heart.

There are two major cell types of mesothelioma, epithelial and sarcomatoid. Sometimes both of these cell types can be present. The sarcomatoid type is rarer and occurs in only about 15% of cases; it portends a poorer prognosis. In very rare cases, mesothelioma can originate from benign, non-malignant cells. This so-called benign mesothelioma can be cured surgically.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 1/17/2014

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Mesothelioma - Signs and Symptoms Question: What were the symptoms of mesothelioma in you or a relative?
Mesothelioma - Asbestos Exposure Question: If you or a relative has/had mesothelioma, did you/they have a history of working with asbestos?
Mesothelioma - How it's Diagnosed Question: Describe the tests and exams that led to a diagnosis of mesothelioma in you or a loved one.
Mesothelioma - Treatment Question: What kinds of medical treatment have you received for mesothelioma?