What type of cancer is mesothelioma? When hearing the word cancer, something that comes to our mind must be such dangerous diseases that are almost impossible to cure. One of the rare but deadly cancers is mesothelioma cancer. It is a type of cancer that attacks mesothelium or membranes that cover many essential organs in our body.
Causes of Mesothelioma
Almost all types of diseases are caused by an unhealthy lifestyle. Well, it is aside from risk factors like genetics and others. The same thing is when someone is suffering from mesothelioma. Ironically, the main cause of the disease is not unhealthy consumption or something. Mesothelioma commonly attacks people who work in the field related to asbestos use.
How can it be? When asbestos is broken, it tends to produce tiny and smooth fibers or dust whether when the asbestos is still in the mining process or when it has been used in the construction. Since it is very tiny and smooth, the fiber can be easily inhaled and enter the lungs. When the asbestos fiber is accumulated in the lung or other organs, later, it causes the development of cancer cells.
Based on the explanation above, there are some groups of people with high risks of mesothelioma. Who are they?
First, they are people who work in the area with asbestos such as mining, construction areas, automotive industry, power plants, textile industry, iron and steel industry, and many more.
Second, they are people who live in an old house or building or those in whom the environment contains asbestos.
Third, they are people with family members who work in areas with asbestos as has been mentioned in the first point. Asbestos dust or fiber may attach to their clothes and they bring it back home.
Lastly, they are people with family members with a history of mesothelioma or other cancers. It is also possible for them with a genetic disorder to increase the risk of mesothelioma.
Aside from asbestos, there are actually some other substances that may cause the risk of mesothelioma. Some of them are the exposures from erionite, Thorium dioxide, and Simian Virus. But for the cases of mesothelioma, those factors are much fewer than those caused by asbestos.
Types of Mesothelioma
Mostly, mesothelioma attacks the pleura or the membrane of the lungs. Yes, it is because the asbestos fiber is commonly inhaled and accumulated in it. However, there are actually some more membranes that are potential to be attacked by cancer. So, here are the explanations for each of them.
First, pleural mesothelioma, as has been mentioned before, is the most common type of cancer. Some general symptoms that may be experienced are as follows. They are sweaty fever particularly at night, extreme fatigue, painful cough, hardness to breathe caused by the accumulation of liquid in lungs, significant weight loss, and bump under the skin on the chest area.
Second, there is also peritoneal mesothelioma. It is a type of mesothelioma that attacks the peritoneum or the membrane of the stomach. Some symptoms that are experienced by patients are appetite loss, weight loss, diarrhea, constipation, pain in the stomach area, swelling stomach, bump in the stomach, and problems in defecation or urination.
Third, it is pericardial mesothelioma or mesothelioma that attacks pericardium or the membrane that covers the heart. Commonly, the cancer is developed from pleural mesothelioma. If the mesothelioma in the lungs is not treated well, the same cancer cell grows and attacks the heart area also. The symptoms are almost similar to those of pleural mesothelioma. But since the condition is more severe, it may feel much more painful.
Lastly, mesothelioma which is caused by asbestos can also attack the membrane that layers the testicle. This type of mesothelioma is rarely found but it is also a sign that the patient’s condition has been too severe. In some cases, the patients have suffered from pleural mesothelioma first before the disease is found in their testicle. But in other cases, mesothelioma attacks the testicle only. For the second case, it has not been known yet how asbestos dust can go through the body and accumulate in the testicle.
When a doctor suspects that someone is suffering from mesothelioma, he or she may conduct some medical checkups. It is to make sure whether the diagnosis is true or not. There are some types of medical checkups to do.
First, it is by using X-ray to detect whether there is any problem or not in the lung area. Some problems to find that detect mesothelioma are including thickening of the lung membrane or pleura, liquid accumulation in pleura, and changes of the lung shape.
Second, CT scan checkups are also conducted to check the areas of the chest and stomach. It is also to know exactly the cancer location as well as to diagnose whether the cancer cell has spread to other body organs.
Third, the doctor may also suggest doing Positron Emission Tomography or PET. PET is a kind of medical checkup using compounds containing radioactive atoms. The compound is injected into the patient’s body to get a detailed description of the tissue suspected to be the cancer cell.
Lastly, it is an MRI. Similar to PET, MRI is also to get the detailed location and condition of the cancer cell. However, the result is considered more accurate. Some doctors suggest using MRI commonly when they cannot find a satisfying result with the PET checkup.
Just like other types of cancer, there has been no drug or medication to cure mesothelioma completely. But the doctor may suggest the patient undergo some treatments to relieve the symptoms. If the patient undergoes the treatments continuously, it is possible that in the future, the cancer cell may be completely gone.
Some treatments to conduct are surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and pleurodesis. Surgery is conducted to remove the cancer cell in the part of the body. As long as it has not been spread too wide, it is very possible to do.
Chemotherapy and radiation therapy are to prevent cancer cells from spreading to the area around them. Meanwhile, pleurodesis is a special treatment for pleura. It is by attaching a new pleura to prevent the continuous formation of liquid.
Unfortunately, mesothelioma had a bad prognosis. Half of the patients can only stay alive around a year after the first diagnosis. Only 10% of them can survive up to 5 years after the first diagnosis.
As the main cause of mesothelioma is asbestos. Therefore, the only action to do to prevent the disease is by avoiding contact with the substance. If you cannot stay away from it for any reasons, make sure to obey the regulations that may have been applied in your work.
Mesothelioma as the further result of asbestos exposure has been widely known. This way, industries that use asbestos also have regulated some points for their employees’ safety. One of them is by wearing a set of clothes to prevent asbestos fiber from entering the body. Those clothes include an oxygen mask, gloves, and boots. More importantly, make sure to do regular checkups to know the recent condition of your health. If you feel one of the mesothelioma symptoms, go to the clinic or hospital to get diagnosis and treatments as soon as possible.