Mesothelioma is an uncommon form of cancer, commonly linked with prior exposure to asbestos. In this disease, cancerous cells grow in the protective lining (mesothelium) covering the internal organs of the body. This disease is commonly located in the outer lining of the chest cavity and lungs (pleura). It can also be found in the lining of the abdominal cavity (peritoneum), or the sac that envelops the heart (pericardium). People who contract this disease have invariably worked on jobs that put them in close contact with asbestos.
One of the characteristics of mesothelioma is that symptoms can appear very late, sometimes 50 years following first contact with asbestos. Symptoms of pleural mesothelioma, the disease’s most common form, include discomfort in the chest and difficulty in breathing. Symptoms of peritoneal mesothelioma, another form of the disease, include weight loss, abdominal swelling and pain. Blood clotting, bowel obstruction and fever are other symptoms of this type of mesothelioma. If the malignancy has spread to other body parts, then symptoms may include pain, face swelling and difficulty in swallowing food. However, it is important to remember that these symptoms are not exclusive to this disease; they can happen with other less severe conditions as well.
Over the past two decades, the rate of mesothelioma cases has gone up. Still, in the larger picture, it is a relatively rare cancer. The percentage of cases largely depends on the populations’ exposure to asbestos. In the United States, it has been reported that that frequency may have hit the highest point at 15 per million in 2004. This trend is thought to continue in other parts of the world. Interestingly, mesothelioma is more common in men than women. The risk of this disease augments with age, but a person of any age or gender can be affected. About one-fifth to one-third of all mesothelioma cases are peritoneal.
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