What is Mesothelioma Cancer?
Cancer that occurs in the thin membrane called mesothelium lining the inner layers of body parts, such as the chest or abdomen, is known as mesothelioma. This type of cancer usually originates from cavities of the chest extensively. Similarly, mesothelioma can also begin its drastic journey from the abdominal chamber or areas surrounding the heart. The malignant mesothelioma cancer cells regardless of their origin can spread and cause serious damage to the tissues around cancer invaded body parts.
Causes of mesothelioma cancer
Asbestos is a group of fibers that are mined and utilised in automotive, construction and other related industries. During the manufacturing procedure, minute asbestos fibers might be swallowed or inhaled by people, which will lead to chronic health issues. Almost 75 percent of people who are exposed to this asbestos at work or home or in mines are at high risk of getting cancer. However, other causes of mesothelioma cancers include zeolite minerals, radiation, SV40 virus and genetics etc.
Symptoms and Signs of Mesothelioma
Mesothelioma Cancer symptoms become visible only after many years of asbestos exposure. Symptoms of mesothelioma in the lungs include the following:
- Chest pain
- Shortness of breath
- Abdominal mesothelioma may include the following symptoms:
- Pain and inflammation in the abdomen.
- Loss of weight
- Abnormal blood clotting disorder
- Obstruction of Bowel
When cancer has gradually spread to different organs of the body, then symptoms can include difficulties while swallowing, pain or swelling of the face or neck. The above symptoms are warning signs of mesothelioma cancer, and it is important that you immediately seek help from your doctors.
Examination of the body
Your Doctor will collect details about your medical history and check if you have symptoms indicating the presence of cancerous abnormalities. They will ask if you are working or living in an environment that exposes asbestos. The doctor will prescribe a few examinations and tests to be performed to confirm fluid accumulation in the pericardium or the thin lining membrane located around the heart, abdomen or chest Chambers etc.
According to the findings from the credits and examinations, your doctor will be recommending you perform various tests for checking mesothelioma cancer.
Tests to diagnose mesothelioma
There is a diverse range of mesothelioma cancer tests performed that are listed for your reference.
1. Blood tests
Patients struggling with mesothelioma will be asked to perform blood tests to check the levels of 3 substances such as osteopontin, fibulin-3 and soluble mesothelium-related peptides. If the results show abnormally high levels of these substances, then further tests will be recommended.
2. Tissue and Fluid sample tests
Fluid accumulation in any part of the body might be due to mesothelioma. Therefore, samples of the fluid are collected from the accumulation area by inserting a needle. The fluid is then examined in the lab under a microscope to check for mesothelioma cancer cells. Sometimes blood tests might not reveal traces of mesothelioma cancer and therefore biopsies are done to collect samples of the tissues.
Biopsies are done by removing tissues from the infected areas to check for mesothelioma. Types of biopsies are:
- Needle biopsy is done by inserting a needle through the infected skin and collecting a piece of the tissues or tumour.
- Mediastinoscopy, laparoscopy and thoracoscopy
- Mediastinoscopy, laparoscopy and thoracoscopy are other methods of biopsies. Tissue samples are collected by inserting a lighted thin scope through the infected skin.
- Surgical biopsy: In certain chronic conditions, more invasive methods will be needed to obtain large amounts of tissues as samples to check and diagnose mesothelioma cancer. A surgical biopsy is performed by opening the abdominal or chest cavity and removing a chunk of the tumor or even the whole tumor.
- Endobronchial ultrasound-guided biopsy: A thin flexible long tube is inserted into the throat to check the lungs for cancer tumors and collect samples using the tube.
Other imaging tests that your Doctors might recommend include chest X-ray, Computed Tomography or CT scan, Positron Emission Tomography or PET scan and Magnetic Resonance Imaging scans.
Treatment for Mesothelioma
Depending on the health condition of the patients and the severity of the malignant mesothelioma cancer treatments are decided. There are three types of cancer treatments performed such as chemotherapy, radiation and surgery. Mesothelioma is treated by combining the above treatments to ensure efficiency.
Surgery treatment options
Surgical procedures are recommended as treatments for mesothelioma cancer in chronic conditions and some of the effective treatment options included are the following:
1. Wide local excision Surgery
Wide local excision Surgery is a procedure where the doctors remove mesothelioma cancer cells along with some portion of surrounding healthy tissues.
2. Pleurectomy and decortication
Pleurectomy and decortication is a surgical process where the surgeon will cut and remove part of the lungs, and the outer lining areas of the lungs.
3. Extrapleural pneumonectomy
Extrapleural pneumonectomy involves the removal of one whole lung along with part of the thin lining of the diaphragm, chest and sac located around the heart.
Pleurodesis is a surgery process of using a drug or chemical to scar the lining of the lungs to prevent symptoms of accumulation of fluid.
Nonsurgical treatment options
1. Radiation therapy
Radiation therapy is performed using high-level energy radiation and X-rays, for destroying and killing the mesothelioma cancer cells. Thus therapy also prevents the cancerous cells from growing and spreading.
2. Chemotherapy treatment
Chemotherapy is performed by giving certain medications to stop mesothelioma cancer cells from growing, dividing and spreading uncontrollably. Chemotherapy can be provided by mouth or injected into the muscles or veins, to enter the flowing blood and destroy mesothelioma cancer cells. Sometimes, doctors may combine multiple chemotherapy drugs for severe conditions which are called combination chemotherapy.
Immunotherapy is the treatment process where medications are given for boosting your immune system and strengthening them to fight cancerous cells. This treatment helps in treating mesothelioma that has grown and spread over a wide area of your body part and cannot be cured by surgery.
4. TTF or the Tumour treating fields
TTF uses electric fields and chemotherapy along with a specific amount of frequencies for slowing down the cancer cell's division and growth.