mesothelioma - a rare kind of cancer

Mesothelioma is a rare disease caused as a result of malignant cancerous cells lining the patient's body cavities such as chest, abdominal region or the area surrounding the heart. It is typically associated with exposure to asbestos which has been documented in as many as 70-80% of all mesothelioma cases. This disease is very difficult to assess consistently due to the great variability in time before diagnosis and the rate of progression of malignant mesothelioma.

Even insignificant exposure to asbestos (commonly reported in such work environments as asbestos mills, mines, shipping yards, some older Navy ships or patients. homes) is known to result in mesothelioma, which in many cases does not occur for decades after initial exposure to this cancer-causing substance. In the recent years as many as 2000-3000 cases of mesothelioma have been diagnosed per year. It is also known that family members of workers exposed to asbestos can contract this disease through exposure to the worker.s clothing. Smoking greatly increases the risk of contracting mesothelioma.

Some of the earliest symptoms of mesothelioma can often be mistaken for less serious illness and are commonly overlooked. Some patients do not show any signs of sickness in the early stages of development of the disease. Most commonly the symptoms include dyspnea, pleuritic pain, lasting cough, fatigue, and weight loss. However, these can not be easily attributed to mesothelioma unless the patient is examined by their health care provider and necessary tests are done, which may include CT scans, x-rays scans, or MRI. Surgery can be one of the treatment options; however, the recurrence rate of cancerous cells is high. It is very important that the disease is diagnosed and treated as early as possible.

This disease is not linked with patient's race; however it is more common in men. Most cases of mesothelioma occur 30-45 years after initial exposure to asbestos. Once it develops, this cancer will continue to grow until it is treated.

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