There are three main types of mesothelioma. It is called as pleural when it affects the lungs, peritoneal when it affects the abdomen and pericardial when it affects the heart. Around 75 % of mesothelioma cases are pleural and 20% are peritoneal or pericardial. There are also some other rare types of mesothelioma that affect the remaining 5%. All these statistics pertain only to the documented cases. There are thousands of cases that go undocumented or undiagnosed all around the world.
Among the various types of cancer, mesothelioma accounts for only a small percentage. However, among the various types of mesothelioma, pleural mesothelioma accounts for nearly three-fourth of the documented cases. In pleural mesothelioma, fluid gets built up between the chest and the mesothelium lining.
The symptoms of this disease include panting, shortness of breath, fever, loss of weight, coughing up blood and breathing difficulties. Patients of pleural mesothelioma face acute chest pain. Since the symptoms of this disease are similar to pneumonia, it is often confused with this disease. The diagnosis is also difficult. There is no known cure for pleural mesothelioma. There are two types of pleural mesothelioma - cancerous and non-cancerous. When it is cancerous, it is called as a malignant form and when it is non-cancerous, it is called as a benign form.
The latency period of mesothelioma is around 20 to 50 years. This makes it very difficult for many people to link the disease to asbestos exposure. They might have changed many jobs by this time and may not consider their disease as an occupational type of disease.
Pleural mesothelioma is caused by the inhalation of asbestos fibers. These fibers enter the lungs through the nose or mouth and they settle in the lungs. Then, they travel through the tissues. Since they are light and invisible, they become easily airborne and inhalable. When the asbestos fibers settle in the mesothelium lining, the mesothelium cells start showing abnormal behavior, thereby leading to mesothelioma. In this disease, tumors are formed in lungs and mesothelium and this may also spread to other parts of the body too.
Since they are difficult to detect, they might have caused maximum havoc by the time they are detected. Mostly, when mesothelioma is detected, the patients are in the final stages of cancer with only a few months or years left. Sometimes, not even that. Mesothelioma is a terrible killer disease. Proper tests and efforts must be taken by the medical fraternity to detect the disease as soon as possible.
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