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What is Mesothelioma?

Below is a list of common questions and answers regarding mesothelioma.

Q: What is mesothelioma?

A. Mesothelioma is a form of cancer that attacks the thin layer of cells surrounding the lungs, heart, and abdominal region.

Q. What happens when you develop mesothelioma?

A. Tumors form in the body, which may not become apparent for decades. These tumors cause a barrage of symptoms that may be confused for other, less-serious conditions.

Q. What causes this condition?

A. Mesothelioma is strongly associated with asbestos exposure. In fact, more than 80 percent of individuals suffering from mesothelioma have worked with asbestos products for extended periods of time.

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Q. What are the different types of mesothelioma?

A. This cancer typically takes one of three different forms:

Testicular mesothelioma may occur, too, but this is extremely rare. This condition affects only males, and only a few cases have ever been reported.

Q. What are the symptoms?

A. Patients with pleural mesothelioma experience shortness of breath, hoarseness, chest pain, unexplained weight loss, anemia, fever, and muscle weakness. In its advanced stages, pleural mesothelioma causes fluid to build up in the lungs.

For peritoneal mestothelioma, the symptoms include fever, difficulty swallowing, upper abdominal pain, and trouble with blood clotting. Fluid buildup in the abdomen, anorexia, and hypoglycemia are also common. Some patients experience abdominal swelling, bowel obstruction, diarrhea, and constipation.

Pericardial mesothelioma leads to excessive sweating, coughs and colds, severe chest pain, weakness, and night sweats.

Q. What are the stages of this disease?

A. Mesothelioma has four stages:

  • Stage I: The stage with the best survival rate, Stage I pertains to when tumors are just beginning to form. At this point, removing the tumor entirely possible, which may give patients a chance at full recovery.
  • Stage II: In Stage II, the tumor has expanded on a single site.
  • Stage III: Here, multiple tumors are clustered in a single location.
  • Stage IV: At this point, the tumors have spread to distant sites in the body. These tumors are advanced and are extremely difficult to treat.

Q. How is this condition diagnosed?

A. Diagnosing mesothelioma is difficult, even for the most experienced doctors. If patients show any symptoms associated with this condition, the doctor will order a complete physical exam as well as imaging tests, biopsies, and lung function tests. These procedures help identify the type of cancer cells and their stage.

Once diagnosed, it's best to seek treatment right away. Treatment is generally more effective when the cancer is detected in its early stages. If you have a history of asbestos exposure, please tell your doctor immediately.

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