Malignant mesothelioma is a type of cancer that occurs in the different organs of the body including chest lining and lung, the abdomen and a pouch-shaped cavity around the heart. These are known as pleural mesothelioma, the peritoneum mesothelioma, and the pericardium mesothelioma consecutively.
Despite being rare, mesothelioma is a very severe kind of cancer which is often detected at an advanced stage. In the United States alone approximately 2000 to 3000 new cases of mesothelioma are diagnosed each year.
Around 75% of these cases belong to pleural mesotheliomas which begins in the chest cavity. Next big occurrence of disease takes place in the abdomen called peritoneal mesotheliomas while the pericardial mesotheliomas – the third type of this cancer is extremely rare.
Types of mesothelioma
We can differentiate mesothelioma on the basis of the microscopic pattern of cancer cells.
2. peritoneal mesotheliomas
3. pericardial mesotheliomas
More than half of mesothelioma is of the epithelioid type which has the best outlook of the three.
The second type is known as sarcomatoid has very uncertain nature. It makes up 10 to 20% of cases of mesotheliomas.
The third type of mesothelioma is is a mixture of the first two types, known as biphasic. Approximately 20% to 35% of mesotheliomas is of Biphasic type.
Mesothelioma Risk factors
In general, a risk factor is anything that can increase a person’s chance of getting a particular disease.
Anything that enhances the chances of a disease in a person is considered as a Risk factor and in case of malignant mesothelioma, the biggest one is exposure to asbestos.
Those who have ever worked on jobs where they breathed in asbestos fibers are infected by this disease most. It also depends how long and to what extent a person was exposed to asbestos. Victims of asbestos exposure include mostly daily wagers varying from asbestos miners to insulation manufacturers and installers.
Family members of people exposed to asbestos are also at high risk as these asbestos fibers transfer to their home on the clothes and body part of these workers and can be inhaled by others. Symptoms of Mesothelioma usually observed 20 to 50 years after someone is exposed to asbestos.
Causes of Malignant Mesothelioma
As said earlier, most of the people who diagnosed with this type of cancer usually have exposure to asbestos somewhere sometime. However proper explanation of this cause is not much clear yet. It is believed that asbestos fibers are inhaled and completes their journey via the throat, windpipe, and the large breathing tubes of the lungs.
This upper air passage is lined with mucus, asbestos fiber sticks to this mucus and is swallowed after being coughed up. Our immune system is enough strong that it removes the small fibers which arrive at the alveoli. This process is known as phagocytosis.
However the long, big but thin fibers are not easy to clear and they eventually reach the lining of the lung and the chest wall known as pleura, where they lead to the development of malignant mesothelioma.