Mesothelioma is a very rare, aggressive form of asbestos cancer that develops in the lining of the lungs, abdomen, or heart. Caused by asbestos, mesothelioma has no known cure and has a very poor prognosis.
According to a 2017 report by the Centers for Disease Control, 2,400 – 2,800 people are diagnosed with mesothelioma in the United States each year. People who have worked with or been exposed to asbestos have the highest risk of developing mesothelioma. After being exposed to asbestos, mesothelioma symptoms can take 20 – 50 years to appear.
Exposure to asbestos, a naturally occurring mineral once highly regarded for its insulation and fire-retardant properties, is still the overwhelming cause of mesothelioma.
Approximately 75 percent of cases are men who were exposed to asbestos while serving in the military or working certain high-risk blue-collar jobs, including construction, firefighting, shipbuilding and industrial work.
Secondhand exposure also occurs when washing the clothes of someone in a high-risk occupation and living near abandoned asbestos mines or areas where asbestos occurs naturally in the environment.
Each type of mesothelioma is classified by the location in the body where it develops. Prognosis, symptoms and treatment options vary by type.
The pleural and peritoneal types of mesothelioma are the most common, while pericardial accounts for just 1 percent of cases. Another rare type known as testicular mesothelioma represents less than 1 percent of all mesotheliomas
The life expectancy for mesothelioma patients is low, as there is no cure for the disease. The stage of the disease, cell type, and location of the tumor(s) are the most important factors for a patient’s survival. Factors such as the patient’s overall health, age, and whether the cancer has spread also impact prognosis.
Exposure to asbestos
Shortness of breath, swollen abdomen, chest wall pain, cough, feeling tired, weight loss
Surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, multimodal treatment, clinical trials
Depends on type, stage and patient profile
Jobs AT RISK
Construction, shipyard workers, veterans
More than $30 billion in asbestos trust funds, lawsuits
Types of Mesothelioma
The most common type, pleural mesothelioma is caused by the inhalation of asbestos fibers.
Inhaled or swallowed asbestos fibers can become trapped in the lining of the abdomen (the peritoneum).
In rare cases, asbestos fibers can get lodged in the pericardium, the lining around the heart cavity.