We Care About Your Mesothelioma Diagnosis
Nationalmeso proud to serve you by offering the best free resources for mesothelioma patients and their families. Our team works tirelessly to explain every aspect of a patient’s diagnosis. Nationalmeso provides patients and their loved ones with resources, answers, and information over a wide spectrum of free assistance options. Nationalmeso know the learning curve with this disease is steep. But with our help, we hope to bend that curve to a manageable level, and provide our patients with a sense that they always have someone to lean on. This web site was created to help you determine the problems, symptoms, treatments for this disease.You will find some basic information about this disease and the parts of the body it may affect.
What is Mesothelioma?
Mesothelioma is a rare cancer of the lung and abdomen linings caused by exposure to asbestos. Mesothelioma is more than a diagnosis—it’s a national crisis affecting thousands of innocent families. Mesothelioma is a rare cancer that begins in the lining of different internal organs of the body.Approximately 75% to 80% of mesotheliomas begin in the lining surrounding the lungs, called pleural mesothelioma. Pleural mesothelioma begins in the chest cavity, but it does not start in the lungs. As such, it is often incorrectly grouped with lung cancer. You are not alone in your fight against mesothelioma. Our support networks and resources are here to help you understand this disease and take control of your health care options.
The most common form of the disease, pleural mesothelioma occurs in the lung’s protective lining—the pleura—years after the inhalation of dangerous asbestos fibers. Pleural mesothelioma has a poor prognosis, but treatment plans can help improve and extend your life.
Peritoneal mesothelioma affects the lining of the abdomen—the peritoneum—after having ingested asbestos fibers. With the best prognosis of all three mesothelioma types, peritoneal mesothelioma patients can undergo potentially life-saving surgeries and treatments.
Pericardial mesothelioma forms in the lining around the heart—the pericardium. With only 150 known cases, it is the rarest form of the disease. Pericardial mesothelioma is difficult to treat, and doctors continue to learn more about this complex cancer.
How is Mesothelioma Diagnosed?
Mesothelioma can only be diagnosed by an experienced oncologist who specializes in your exact disease location, type and stage. The process for diagnosing mesothelioma is complex and often leads to misdiagnosis.
Signs and Symptoms
Chest pain is often felt by pleural mesothelioma and pericardial mesothelioma patients as the disease progresses. Chest pain may be a symptom of a number of serious conditions and is, in general, considered a medical emergency. The thoracic cavity (or chest cavity) is the chamber of the body of vertebrates that is protected by the thoracic wall (rib cage and associated skin, muscle, and fascia). The central compartment of the thoracic cavity is the mediastinum. Even though it may be determined that the pain is non-cardiac in origin, this is often a diagnosis of exclusion made after ruling out more serious causes of the pain.
Pleural effusion is excess fluid that accumulates in the pleural cavity, the fluid-filled space that surrounds the lungs. This excess can impair breathing by limiting the expansion of the lungs. At least 300 ml of fluid must be present before upright chest films can pick up signs of pleural effusion. A common cause of pleural effusions are bacterial pneumonia, cancer (with lung cancer, breast cancer, and lymphoma causing approximately 75% of all malignant pleural effusions), viral infection, and pulmonary embolism. Pleural effusion is often experienced by pleural mesothelioma and pericardial mesothelioma patients as the disease progresses.
Shortness of breath, or breathlessness is the feeling or feelings associated with impaired breathing. Dyspnea is a normal symptom of heavy exertion but becomes pathological if it occurs in unexpected situations. In 85% of cases it is due to asthma, pneumonia, cardiac ischemia, interstitial lung disease, congestive heart failure, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or psychogenic causes, such as panic disorder and anxiety. Treatment typically depends on the underlying cause.
Fatigue is a subjective feeling of tiredness which is distinct from weakness, and has a gradual onset. Unlike weakness, fatigue can be alleviated by periods of rest. Fatigue can have physical or mental causes. Physical fatigue is the transient inability of a muscle to maintain optimal physical performance, and is made more severe by intense physical exercise. Medically, fatigue is a non-specific symptom, which means that it has many possible causes.
A wheeze is a continuous, coarse, whistling sound produced in the respiratory airways during breathing. For wheezes to occur, some part of the respiratory tree must be narrowed or obstructed, or airflow velocity within the respiratory tree must be heightened. Wheezing is commonly experienced by persons with a lung disease; the most common cause of recurrent wheezing is asthma attacks, though it can also be a symptom of lung cancer. Hoarseness (Dysphonia) is a disorder of the voice: an impairment in the ability to produce voice sounds using the vocal organs (it is distinct from dysarthria which signifies dysfunction in the muscles needed to produce speech).
Coughing up blood or blood-stained mucus from the bronchi, larynx, trachea, or lungs is called Hemoptysis. This can occur with lung cancer, infections such as tuberculosis, bronchitis, or pneumonia, and certain cardiovascular conditions. Hemoptysis is considered massive if there is more than 300mL of blood lost in 24 hours. In such cases, the primary danger comes from choking, rather than blood loss. Hemoptysis is often experienced by pleural mesothelioma and pericardial mesothelioma patients as the disease progresses.
Mesothelioma Treatment Options
There are several treatment options for patients with mesothelioma, from surgery to chemotherapy. These treatment options are not typically considered a cure for mesothelioma patients, although patients have reached remission in certain cases. These cases are typically situations where the disease was caught in the earliest stages and treated aggressively by a specialist. There are treatment options available for patients with all stages of mesothelioma and include surgery, chemotherapy, radiation and new clinical options.
Surgical options are available for both curative and pain-relief purposes for all types of mesothelioma. Recovery from surgery can last several weeks. In localized pericardial mesothelioma, pericardectomy can be curative; when the tumor has metastasized, pericardectomy is a palliative care option. The entire tumor is not often able to be removed.
Chemotherapy is an effective and viable form of treatment viable for patients with all 4 stages of malignant mesothelioma. Chemotherapy is the only treatment for mesothelioma that has been proven to improve survival in randomised and controlled trials.
Radiation therapy can be used before and after surgery to help shrink tumors and kill remaining cancer cells in a specific area of the body. For patients with localized disease, and who can tolerate a radical surgery, radiation can be given post-operatively as a consolidative treatment.
Aggressive surgical treatments combined with chemotherapy and radiation have increased the life expectancy of many patients. The indications for performing these operations are unique. The choice of operation namely depends on the size of the patient's tumor.
Clinical trials offer patients access to emerging treatments such as immunotherapy treatments, gene therapy and photodynamic therapy. Thoracotomy is a major surgical maneuver—it is the first step in many thoracic surgeries including lobectomy or pneumonectomy for lung cancer.