Mesothelioma is a cancer of the mesothelium, the membrane that covers and protects the internal organs of the body. It may arise from the pleura (lining of the chest cavity), the peritoneum (lining of the abdominal cavity) or the pericardium (lining of the pericardial cavity). The incidence of mesothelioma is four times higher in men as compared to women. Exposure to asbestos has been suspected as a major cause of the mesothelioma since 1943. A study was conducted on the asbestos workers in South Africa during the 1960s, which established a link between the exposure to asbestos and genesis of the mesothelioma. It has been observed that the mesothelioma may occur even 30 to 40 years after exposure to asbestos.
Symptoms of the pleural mesothelioma include:
- Shortness of the breath
- chest pain
- Loss of appetite
- Loss of weight
- Hoarseness of the voice
Symptoms of the peritoneal mesothelioma include:
- Urinary obstruction
- Swelling in the legs
Staging of the mesothelioma is done as follows:
- In the localised (limited) stage of the mesothelioma, the tumour is located only in the pleura or only in the peritoneum.
- In the advanced (diffuse) stage of the mesothelioma, the tumour spreads beyond the pleura or the peritoneum to involve other parts of the chest or the abdomen.
- Recurrent mesothelioma is the one that reappears after an apparent recovery in response to the initial treatment.
Procedures used in diagnosis & evaluation of the mesothelioma include chest X-rays, CT scan, thoracoscopy, laparoscopy, and biopsy.
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