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Mesothelioma

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Asbestos fibers lead to Mesothelioma when inhaled.

Mesothelioma is a chronic lung cancer that affects the lining of the lungs, heart, and occasionally the abdomen. It makes up for almost three percent of cancer cases. In most cases, Mesothelioma is fatal. About two thousand to three thousand cases of Mesothelioma are diagnosed each year. [1]

Causes

Mesothelioma is contracted from breathing in asbestos particles. Many individuals infected with Mesothelioma contracted it from work related exposure. Thirty percent of the individuals infected with Mesothelioma are veterans. [1] Others have unknowingly contracted it from household environments.[2] Many of the types of workers to contract Mesothelioma from their work are industrial workers such as asbestos miners, factory workers, shipyard workers and construction workers. They are among the first people to contract the cancer. Mesothelioma can take between thirty to forty years to start showing symptoms.[3] The spreading of Mesothelioma is caused by a genetic mutation in cells. These cancer cells form to make a tumor that can mutate and invade other parts of the body. The genetic mutation is a result of asbestos fibers in the lungs or internal organs.[4]

Types and Symptoms

There are three different types of Mesothelioma, each with its own set of symptoms: Peritoneal Mesothelioma, Pericardial Mesothelioma, and Pleural Mesothelioma Symptoms. [1]

Peritoneal Mesothelioma

A human lung infected with Mesothelioma

Peritoneal Mesothelioma is the second most common form of Mesothelioma, about twenty-five to thirty percent of all cases infected are Peritoneal Mesothelioma. The symptoms are caused by the thickening of the peritoneal membrane with a resulting fluid build up between the layers of tissue. The person can start showing symptoms of cancer as a result of pressure build up on the abdominal area and organs.

The symptoms are:

  • Fever or sweating at night
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Pain or swelling in the abdomen
  • Anemia
  • Fatigue
  • Diarrhea or constipation
  • Vomiting or Nausea
  • Lumps under the skin of abdomen [1]

Pericardial Mesothelioma

Pericardial Mesothelioma is the least common form of Mesothelioma. Less than five percent of patients infected with Mesothelioma have Pericardial Mesothelioma. The symptoms are caused by a thickening of the Pericardial Membrane. Fluid builds up underneath the membrane. Pericardial Mesothelioma is so rare that its symptoms are not well recognized. This makes it incredibly difficult to diagnose which results in a poor diagnosis in patients.

The symptoms are:

  • Irregular heartbeat and heart palpitations
  • Chest pain
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Fever or sweating at night
  • Fatigue [1]

Pleural Mesothelioma

Pleural Mesothelioma is the most common form of Mesothelioma. It accounts for about two-thirds for all Mesothelioma cases. The symptoms are a result of a thickening of the pleural membrane which is caused by the production of cancer cells and a build up of fluid between the layers of tissue. This leads to applied pressure on the lungs that can result in a decline in respiratory function.

The symptoms are:

  • Dry or raspy cough
  • Coughing up blood (hemoptysis)
  • Difficulty swallowing (dysphagia)
  • Fever or sweating a night
  • Unexplained weight loss of 10 percent or more
  • Fatigue
  • Painful breathing or chest and rib pain
  • Shortness of breath (dyspnea)
  • Lumps under the skin on the chest [1]

Testicular Mesothelioma

Less than one hundred cases of Testicular Mesothelioma have been recorded in the last sixty years. The only known symptom of Testicular Mesothelioma is testicular lumps. [1]

Complications

Renal Cell Carcinoma which stimulates the spreading of Mesothelioma

There are a few complications that result from Mesothelioma.

  • Chest pain: Chest pain is classified as pain in the area between the neck and upper abdomen. [5]
  • Shortness of Breath: A tightening in the chest; also called Dyspnea. The feeling is a result of signals in the brain from nerve endings in the lungs, rib cage, chest muscles, or diaphragm. Dyspnea is described as shortness of breath, increased difficulty in using the chest muscles, a feeling of being smothered, or tightness and cramping in the chest wall. [5]
  • Superior Vena Cava Syndrome: The Superior Vena Cava is a major vein in the heart that carries blood from the upper body. SVCS is caused by a restriction of the blood flow through this vein (occlusion). SVCS is also called Superior Mediastinal Syndrome or Superior Vena Cava Obstruction. The symptoms of SCVS are:
  • Changes in voice
  • Confusion
  • Coughing
  • Enlargement of the veins in the upper body
  • Headaches
  • Light-headedness
  • Swelling in the arms
  • Facial Swelling [5]
  • Difficulty Swallowing (Dysphagia):

Dysphagia an inability to move food or liquids from the mouth and through the pharynx and esophagus into the stomach. Normally, swallowing carries food or liquids from the mouth, through the pharynx and esophagus and into the stomach. This leaves no residue that could obstruct or hinder breathing normally. It uses sensory stimuli and complex motor functions which are classified as both voluntary and involuntary reflexes. It starts by using the tongue to move the food into the pharynx. Then, the pharynx moves the food into the esophagus. From the esophagus, the food moves into the stomach where it can be digested. With dyshagia, the food is unable to successfully move from the mouth and into the stomach. [5]

  • Death:

The most severe cases of Mesothelioma result in death.

Asbestosis

Asbestosis is classified as chronic lung disease. Asbestosis is contracted by breathing in asbestos fibers. Too many fibers in the lungs can result in the scarring of lung tissue. The symptoms for asbestosis can range from deadly to mild. The symptoms of asbestosis do not show up until about twenty to thirty years after the infection starts. The scarring in the lungs stiffens them, prohibiting them from expanding and contracting. The symptoms of Asbestosis are very similar to other breathing disorders.

They include:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Inability to sustain physical activity
  • coughing
  • chest pain
  • Finger deformity called "clubbing"

In normal lung function, microorganisms and dust get trapped by the cilia in your lungs. When a lung is infected with Asbestosis, a macrophage attempts to ingest an asbestos fiber but is unable to do so. The macrophage leaks substances to destroy the foreign fiber and it results in damage to the surrounding alveoli. The alveoli then become inflamed which results in scarring of the lung tissue. This process is called fibrosis. This scarring can inhibit the lungs ability to exchange oxygen and carbon dioxide. It also decreases the lungs muscular effort. Many resulting complications can come from having Asbestosis. They include:

  • High blood pressure in the lungs: Scar tissue built up in the lungs will compress and destroy the blood vessels. This causes an increase in blood pressure.
  • Heart problems: Pulmonary Hypertension can result from Asbestosis. Pulmonary hypertension leads to an enlargement and failure of the heart's right ventricle called the cor pulmonale. The right ventricle of the heart pumps oxygen-poor blood from the organs and tissues to the lungs, where the blood receives oxygen. As the pulmonary arteries narrow, the heart's right ventricle needs to work extra hard to pump blood through the lungs. Normally, the heart thickens its walls and dilates the right ventricle to increase the amount of blood it can hold. But this is only temporary, and with time the right ventricle will weaken and fail from the extra effort and strain.
  • Lung cancer: There is a high increase in the risk of contracting lung or other types of cancer. These risks are heightened for people who smoke or chew tobacco.[6]

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 Mesothelioma by Mesothelioma Center
  2. [1] by MedicineNet Inc
  3. [2] by Mesothelioma Research Foundation Of America
  4. [3] by Mesothelioma Treatment Centers
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 [4] by Healthline Networks, Inc
  6. [5] by The Mayo Clinic

Other respiratory diseases