Mesothelioma: What Is Malignant Mesothelioma Cancer?

What is Mesothelioma?Malignant Mesothelioma in the Right Lung

Mesothelioma is a rare cancer caused by asbestos.

The American Cancer Society records about 3,000 new cases of mesothelioma each year in the U.S.

Its most common symptoms include coughing, pain in the chest or abdomen and fluid around the lungs. Doctors often treat the cancer with chemotherapy, surgery, radiation or a combination of all three treatment options.

While these treatments control tumor growth, researchers have not found a definitive cure for the cancer.

Exposure to asbestos is the main cause of the cancer.

Mesothelioma develops when a person ingests asbestos, and it causes changes to a persons DNA.

Our genes, which are made of DNA, control how cells grow, multiply and die. Changes in our genes may cause cells to divide out of control and may lead to cancer.

Tumors also can be benign (noncancerous). But when tumors are cancerous, doctors call the disease malignant mesothelioma. It is often shortened to mesothelioma.

Common mesothelioma symptoms include:

These mesothelioma symptoms usually do not show until tumors have grown and spread. Mesothelioma latency is 20-50 years. Thats how long it takes from initial exposure to accurate diagnosis. For that reason, many people with mesothelioma are in their 60s or 70s.

You should talk to a mesothelioma specialist soon if you have a history of asbestos exposure and experience these symptoms. An early mesothelioma diagnosis may improve your prognosis and life expectancy.

Select the diagnosis you or your loved one is facing and receive a free guide with the right information for you:

Oncologists name each type of mesothelioma by the location in the body where it develops.

The pleural and peritoneal types of mesothelioma are the most common. Pericardial accounts for 1 percent of cases. Another rare type is testicular mesothelioma. It represents less than 1 percent of all mesotheliomas.

Prognosis, symptoms and treatment options vary by type.

Asbestos use in the military was widespread from 1940 to 1980. Veterans from all branches of the U.S. armed forces were at risk of exposure. Navy veterans are most at risk. This branch used the largest quantity of asbestos products.

More than 75 occupations have exposed workers to asbestos. Auto mechanics, textile workers, steel mill workers, construction workers and firefighters are among the most at risk.

Asbestos workers unknowingly carried asbestos fibers on their body and clothing. This resulted in secondary asbestos exposure among residents such as women and children.

Younger patients and women have a better mesothelioma prognosis than older men. People diagnosed with peritoneal mesothelioma also have a higher chance of survival.

Patients eligible to undergo multimodal therapy, which is a combination of two or more standard-of-care treatments, have a better life expectancy and improved prognosis.

A patients mesothelioma cell type also plays a significant role in prognosis and life expectancy.

The three types of cells include:

The cancer is localized. Surgery is most effective at this stage. Survival rate is higher. Median life expectancy at stage 1 is 22.2 months.

Tumors have started to spread from the original location into adjacent structures. Surgery is still an option. Median life expectancy at stage 2 is 20 months.

Cancer has progressed to a more advanced stage with spread into the regional lymph nodes. Surgery may still be an option. Median life expectancy at stage 3 is 17.9 months.

Cancer has spread extensively in the area where it developed. Chemotherapy and immunotherapy control symptoms and prolong survival. Median life expectancy at stage 4 is 14.9 months or less.

Mesothelioma is a rare cancer. It represents only 0.3 percent of all cancer diagnoses. Most doctors and oncologists have never encountered it.

A 2009 study published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine states that cancer care requires the technical knowledge and skills of specialty physicians such as medical oncologists, surgeons and radiation oncologists.

These are factors that impact a mesothelioma patients survival. Thats why finding a mesothelioma specialist is so important.

Finding a mesothelioma specialty center with experienced mesothelioma doctors is crucial to survival.

Brigham and Women’s Hospital

Dr. Abraham Lebenthal is a respected thoracic surgeon who treats pleural mesothelioma patients at Brigham & Womens Hospital and Boston VA Hospital. Lebenthal worked alongside Dr. David Sugarbaker at Brigham and teaches at Harvard Medical School.

UCLA Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center

Dr. Robert B. Cameron developed a lung-sparing surgery for pleural mesothelioma that not only extends survival, but offers greater quality of life by preserving the lung. Camerons surgery has a lower risk of complications and studies report longer survival times.

H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center

Dr. Jacques Fontaine is the Director of the Mesothelioma Research and Treatment Center at Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa, Florida. He specializes in minimally invasive thoracic surgery including robotic surgery. Fontaine became a pleural mesothelioma specialist at Brigham & Womens Hospitals International Mesothelioma Program.

Washington Cancer Center

Dr. Paul Sugarbaker is the countrys leading expert on peritoneal mesothelioma. He developed the widely renowned cytoreductive surgery and heated chemotherapy technique that changed the landscape of peritoneal cancer treatment. Many people with peritoneal mesothelioma are alive today because of Sugarbakers innovations.

Ridley-Tree Cancer Center

Dr. W. Charles Conway is an expert in peritoneal mesothelioma and the Director of Surgical Oncology at Ridley-Tree Cancer Center in Santa Barbara, California. He specializes in minimally invasive robotic surgery and heated chemotherapy for peritoneal mesothelioma.

UPMC Hillman Cancer Center

Dr. J.F. Pingpank Jr. is a peritoneal mesothelioma expert who advocates for regional therapy. The approach applies treatment locally around the cancer to limit damage to the rest of the body. Pingpank specializes in cytoreductive surgery and heated chemotherapy.

We can help you or a loved one find a mesothelioma doctor who specializes in chemotherapy.

Mesothelioma treatment helps patients live longer lives. But not every patient is eligible for each type of mesothelioma treatment.

The most common treatments for mesothelioma include:

More than 70 percent of mesothelioma patients undergo chemotherapy

Clinical trials offer mesothelioma patients access to experimental therapies. They also provide scientific and medical information for researches to develop new treatments. Patients in clinical trials also receive excellent medical care.

Herbal medicines, mind-body therapies, holistic healing and other complementary therapies may benefit patients.

Thank you for the doctor referral info. We met with the doctor and came away with what seemed like a weight lifted.

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We can help you or a loved one get a diagnosis or a second opinion from a mesothelioma specialist.

Many companies that produced, distributed or used asbestos products knew it was deadly. But they neglected to warn their employees. Filing a lawsuit can help mesothelioma patients cover lost wages, medical expenses and other costs.

$180,000 is the median value for mesothelioma claims, according to a 2010 report from the RAND Corporation, a nonprofit institution that conducts research and analysis on asbestos bankruptcy trusts.

A person with mesothelioma can file a personal injury lawsuit. Mesothelioma lawyers file these against companies responsible for their clients asbestos exposure. Families can file wrongful death claims when a loved one dies of mesothelioma.

Qualified mesothelioma attorneys can help you decide when to file a lawsuit. They can also guide you through the process. Time is of the essence because statute of limitations may expire. A mesothelioma lawyer will review your case so you receive the highest compensation.

Learn How to Hire a Qualified Mesothelioma Lawyer

Support is available for mesothelioma patients, survivors and loved ones in many forms.

The Mesothelioma Centers monthly online support group meets every second Wednesday. Licensed mental health counselor Dana Nolan runs the support group. Patients and survivors can share their experiences with others on a similar cancer journey.

The first signs of mesothelioma include shortness of breath, cough and chest pain. Other initial symptoms include wheezing, weight loss and fatigue.

While there is no cure for any stage or type of mesothelioma, some early-stage patients have gone into remission for years after treatment. Remission means the cancer has stopped growing and spreading. Patients diagnosed early enough to qualify for surgery have the best chance of achieving remission.

Unfortunately, a number of stage 4 mesothelioma cases do not produce symptoms that clearly indicate a diagnosis of mesothelioma. The symptoms of mesothelioma lead most general practitioners to a diagnosis of pneumonia or another pulmonary condition. In most cases, mesothelioma is diagnosed in stage 4 at a hospital or cancer center by an oncologist and not by general practitioner.

Last Modified March 25, 2019

Registered Nurse and Patient Advocate

Karen Selby joined Asbestos.com in 2009. She is a registered nurse with a background in oncology and thoracic surgery and was the regional director of a tissue bank before becoming a Patient Advocate at The Mesothelioma Center. Karen has assisted surgeons with thoracic surgeries such as lung resections, lung transplants, pneumonectomies, pleurectomies and wedge resections. She is also a member of the Academy of Oncology Nurse & Patient Navigators.

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Mesothelioma: What Is Malignant Mesothelioma Cancer?

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