What Is The Main Cause Of Mesothelioma?

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Everyone wants to have a good life. A good life can be described differently by many people as people have their own interpretation on how life is ideal for them. One thing for sure, having good health can help a person have a good life. There are many diseases or conditions that could deteriorate a person’s quality of life. Diseases such as mesothelioma can cause great worry to those diagnosed with one. In this DoctorOnCall’s article, we will learn more about mesothelioma.

Mesothelioma is a cancer developed from a layer of tissue called the mesothelium, protecting the internal organs such as lung, chest wall and abdomen. Mesothelioma is typically caused by a mineral called asbestos. Asbestos-contaminated products such as talc and old construction material has been stipulated to be the culprit of mesothelioma. Cancer begins when a person is exposed to asbestos fibre for a long time. Need to note that not everyone exposed to asbestos will develop mesothelioma but risk of developing it is high among people working directly with asbestos material such as building, textile worker or automotive manufacturers and those working in building using asbestos such as painters or electricians. We can say that the main cause for mesothelioma is the exposure to asbestos.

Mesothelioma commonly affects the lining of the lung, causing symptoms arising from the damaged lung structures. Symptoms may not be obvious during the early stage and often mimic symptoms of asbestosis, a condition causing scarring of the lung due to exposure to asbestos fibre or dust. Symptoms include shortness of breath, persistent dry cough, tightened or chest pain, extreme tiredness, muscle weakness, unexplained weight loss and high temperature and sweating becoming intense at night (night sweats).

As mentioned, mesothelioma may also affect the abdomen. Symptoms of peritoneal mesothelioma would be different to pleural mesothelioma affecting the lung. Symptoms are nausea, abdominal pain, abdominal swelling (ascites), unexplained weight loss, fatigue, night sweats, constipation and diarrhoea.

Since mesothelioma could easily be masked by other conditions, it can often be misdiagnosed as other illnesses such as pneumonia or bronchitis due to its rare occurrence. Hence, getting prompt diagnosis and asking for a second opinion from another specialist is much welcomed. Diagnosing a person with mesothelioma is no easy task and would take a few steps before a person receives proper diagnosis. Here are steps doctors take to diagnose mesothelioma and as a guide for those planning to meet a doctor:

1-    Doctors will ask more about the symptoms and history of the patients including past medical history, family history and job history.

2-    Physical examination of the body as a whole and attention to the chest or abdomen area. During this session, the doctor may request to run a blood test or another laboratory test.

3-    Basic imaging tests such as X-ray will be done to check for any abnormality. Further imaging of advanced imaging such as CT scan or MRI may provide details of the lung if abnormalities found in the X-ray are suspicious.

4-    Taking samples of tissues is recommended if cancer is suspected. This is known as a biopsy procedure. Biopsy is done either surgery or by using a special needle into the suspected area to obtain a tissue sample.

       Unfortunately, mesothelioma is typically diagnosed in the late stage when the cancer has already spread to the whole body. This leaves patients with poor outcomes. Life expectancy is about 12 to 21 months with treatment. Standard treatment for mesothelioma is just like any other cancer: surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, immunotherapy or multimodal therapy combining multiple treatments. However, mesothelioma does not definitely end with death and many actually become a survivor. Getting early detection and prompt treatment by lung specialists can improve survival rate.

The best way to prevent mesothelioma is to avoid exposure to the cause of the mesothelioma which is asbestos. To minimise the risk, those who work in conditions with asbestos need to wear protective gear and to always follow all safety regulations or precautions. If you are unsure your household contains asbestos, you may want to get a home professional to check for any possible asbestos or damages that could lead to exposure toward the substance. This is especially true in old homes. When there is need for removal for asbestos, always ensure to only ask a qualified contractor to do this for you and never to remove this yourself as this could cause further contamination in your house.

Also read – Dengue Prevention

Do you know that there are more than 200 types of cancer in the world and it is estimated that 18.1 million cancer cases in 2020 alone? Mesothelioma is considered a rare cancer as there are estimated to be 2000 cases diagnosed each year. Despite this, it is one of the most notorious cancers due to late diagnosis and it often takes many years before a person is diagnosed from the initial exposure to asbestos. This means that the outcome for patients with mesothelioma are often poor.