Mesothelioma, which is one of the very rare cancers, is usually referred to as Malignant Mesothelioma, because it is very seldom seen to be benign. This cancer attacks the protective lining that encases the internal organs of the body.
This cancer is most often seen to attack the inner lining of the chest wall or the outer lining of the lungs; however it can also be seen to occur in the sac that holds the heart or the peritoneum, which is the lining of the abdominal cavity.
In Pleural Mesothelioma, which is the commonest form of this disease, the outer lining of the lungs and internal chest wall is affected. Calcification and thickening of the lining is usually noted.
The chief causal factor seen to be associated with malignant Mesothelioma is exposure to asbestos. Inhalation of asbestos particles because a person was working with asbestos or for any other reason, is seen to increase risk greatly.
Even indirect exposure to asbestos, such as washing the clothes of a person who has been working with asbestos is known to increase risk of this rare cancer. Populations that live near naturally occurring asbestos are also seen to have higher incidence of this disease.
This is known to be a very deadly cancer, since it is difficult to diagnose and detect as well as treat. Life expectancy in this kind of cancer is also seen to be generally low (between one and five years).
It could be that as many as twenty five to fifty years may pass after asbestos exposure, before the person exhibits any symptoms of malignant Mesothelioma.
The signs and symptoms of Malignant Mesothelioma are:
- Pleural Effusion is the most common symptom which is fluid between the chest wall and the lungs. The liquid is seen to move freely in the earlier stages; while it is seen not to move in the later stages. This symptom can mimic the symptoms of congestive heart failure in the early stages.
- Pain in the chest wall, side of the chest and the lower back may be noted.
- Shortness of breath is a common symptom, which can be caused due to the pleural effusion.
- A persistent cough is also noted.
- Some may also find that there is difficulty swallowing food.
- General symptoms such as weight loss, fever, high sweats, fatigue and general debility may also be noted.