Malignant mesothelioma is a cancer of the lining of the chest and abdominal organs, called the mesothelium. It is caused by asbestos exposure, but doesn’t occur for three to five decades after inhaling the fibers.1 Approximately 70 to 80 percent of mesothelioma patients were exposed in the workplace.2
Types of malignant mesothelioma
The type of mesothelioma3 is determined by where the tumor starts.
- Pleural mesothelioma — the most common form of malignant mesothelioma (accounting for 75 percent of all cases); starts along the pleura (the lining of the lungs) in the chest cavity
- Peritoneal mesothelioma — the form of malignant mesothelioma that starts along the peritoneum (the lining of the abdomen)
- Pericardial mesothelioma — a rare form of malignant mesothelioma that affects the lining, or sac, around the heart
Symptoms of malignant mesothelioma
Pleural mesothelioma symptoms include4:
- Shortness of breath
- Trouble breathing
- Chest pain
- Hoarse voice
- Weight loss
Peritoneal mesothelioma symptoms include:
- Abdominal pain
- Swelling of the abdomen
- Weight loss
- Nausea and/or vomiting
Malignant mesothelioma diagnosis
When a person has a history of asbestos exposure and starts to show symptoms of malignant mesothelioma, the doctor can diagnose mesothelioma based on a physical exam, blood tests, biopsy and imaging4.
Types of imaging used to diagnose malignant mesothelioma may include:
- Chest X-ray
- CT scan
- PET scan
Fluid removed from the chest, abdomen or around the heart may also be tested to confirm malignant pleural, peritoneal or pericardial mesothelioma.
Malignant mesothelioma treatment
The main treatments for malignant mesothelioma are surgery, radiation and chemotherapy5,6. New targeted treatments are also being tested in clinical trials. The type of treatment depends on the age and overall health of the patient, the type of mesothelioma and the stage and location of the disease.
Malignant mesothelioma prognosis
Early detection and treatment of malignant mesothelioma are important for a good prognosis and treatment outcome7. Some patients who are diagnosed in stage I malignant mesothelioma fully recover. However, the overall five-year survival rate for malignant mesothelioma is 10 percent, with average survival of 10-11 months after diagnosis.