Mesothelioma cancer is considered to be the rarest and deadliest types of cancer, and usually affects the mesothelial tissues of the body organs, normally abdomen and lungs. It develops malignant and cancerous cells in mesothelium, which is the protective cell covering many internal organs of the body. It can even damage other body organs by spreading out the damaged cells to them.
The main cause of this type of cancer in about 50-80% cases is exposure to the asbestos. People involved in occupations like constructions jobs in insulators, shipyards and boiler makers are at a risk of catching asbestos disease. It is a very restrained form of cancer which provides only few symptoms that can be noticed until the disease becomes enormously advanced.
Pleural mesothelioma is the most usual type of the cancer, indicated by chronic coughing, shortness of breath in combination with common cold and allergies. Other pleural mesothelioma symptoms include chest pain, coughing blood, fatigue, wheezing, swollen lymph node, loss of appetite, loss of weight and lung infection.
Peritoneal mesothelioma is another form of the cancer, which generally affects the covering around the intestines and the stomach. Symptoms of this type of cancer include weight loss, fever, anaemia, pain in abdomen, swelling in abdomen or bowel obstructions. Another type of the cancer is pericardial mesothelioma, the symptoms of which including palpitations, persistent coughing, chest pain and shortness of breath.
It has been estimated that about 2000 new cases of this type of cancer are diagnosed every year. It is to be noted that only a professional cancer expert can diagnose mesothelioma. The disease starts in small lumps in the pleura membrane, that may not be scanned on X-rays, until they are advanced and grown up in large size. The symptoms of the disease may not come into view until 30-50 years of exposure to asbestos.
The treatment options available for this type of cancer are:
Chemotherapy: Chemotherapy with doxorubicin or adriamycin has been 20% responsive in cases of mesothelioma.
Radiation Therapy: This disease is quite moderately responsive towards radiation therapy also. It can improve the quality of life of the patient, as it can reduce shortness of breath and pain in the body, while it can not cure the problem.
Surgery: Surgical choices like removing the cancer tumour by cutting out the lun or decortication have also not been very successful so far.
Photodynamic therapy: In this process, the cancer cells are given an intravenous photosynthesizer, which are afterwards activated in order to destroy the cells with the help of a laser light of specific wave length. This therapy is still in its experimental stages.
The average survival time of a patient from the time of observance of the cancer is about 4-24 months, however, with proper care, some patients have also been seen living for many years. Therefore, it is advisable for those who are working in asbestos prone localities to regularly consult a doctor and go for regular check ups, so that any possibility for the cancer can be diagnosed at an earlier stage.