Mesothelioma cancer: symptoms, causes, books and treatment options

Mesothelioma cancer is the name given to an aggressive form of cancerous growth of the mesothelial cells. These cells exist around the outer lining of the organs of the body as a covering. Mesothelioma mostly affected the pleural or the lungs lining. The main reason people suffer from this condition is asbestos exposure. In this post, we will tell you about what is mesothelioma and other mesothelioma information.

What is Mesothelioma Cancer

Mesothelioma mostly affects the lungs with an ability to stay dormant for 30 years or more. The incidence is higher in men as compared to women. Scientists haven’t been able to devise the cure to this condition, but in most cases, palliative therapy is applied for improving the patient’s quality of life.

Because of its fatality, the World Health Organization (WHO) has made a declaration that all asbestos-related diseases must be eliminated from every corner of the world.

Mesothelioma has affected a large population of several countries in the world. The highest incidence of mesothelioma reports is in Europe, in countries like Belgium, Malta, The Netherlands, and the United Kingdom. The mortality rates or incidence is slightly lower in Central Europe and Japan.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 83 countries reported nearly 92,253 deaths between 1994 and 2008.

What is Mesothelioma Cancer?

Mesothelioma cancer occurs when mutated cells start dividing uncontrollably. As Mesothelioma has a very aggressive nature, it could progress and spread very quickly in some instances. 55 per cent of patients live for a period of six months after the diagnosis, and about 33 per cent live up to a year.

Mesothelium is a protective membrane seen towards the lining of the internal body organs. Out of four cases, three of them suffering from this condition begin with pleural mesothelium around the chest cavity. It can also start around the heart or abdominal cavity.

Regardless of the origin location, the malignant cells have the power to invade as well as cause damage to the tissues nearby. Cancer cells also have the potential to metastasise to several other body parts.

In most scenarios, by the time this condition is diagnosed, it has advanced. The five-year survival rate is around 5 to 10 per cent. Pneumonia is the primary cause of death in most patients suffering from mesothelioma lung cancer. Some patients have to deal with small-bowel obstruction, usually when a tumour reaches the diaphragm. A few patients have to deal with cardiac complications, which, eventually, lead to death.

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Symptoms of Mesothelioma

Mesothelioma can be of different types, and the signs are different for each of these three types. In some instances, the symptoms do not show for about 30 years after being exposed to asbestos dust and particles.

The doctor conducts the diagnosis usually after the disease has progressed significantly. The outcome will highly depend on how early the symptoms were detected.

The location of cancer will determine the true nature of the signs and symptoms.

Pleural mesothelioma cancer symptoms include:

  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Fever
  • Sweating
  • Exhaustion
  • Discomfort, usually towards the side of the chest
  • Lower back pain
  • Detectable lumps below the skin near the chest area
  • Pain experienced below the rib-cage
  • Unexplained and unexpected weight loss
  • Coughing, usually painful
  • Shortness of breath

Peritoneal Mesothelioma symptoms include:

Pericardial Mesothelioma symptoms include:

  • Chest pain
  • Extreme fatigue along with light exertion
  • Heart palpitations
  • Oedema, or fluid retention, mostly near the leg region
  • Shortness of breath
  • Low blood pressure

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Causes of Mesothelioma

Mesothelioma shares a correlation with a compound made from a combination of six minerals, also called asbestos.

Asbestos is a bunch of minerals made from thin, long fires that occur naturally. They are either bundles or fibers, found in rocks or soil. They occur quite naturally in the world. Asbestos contains oxygen, silicon, and several other elements.

Asbestos is a widely used compound in several products, especially in building materials like roof shingles, ceiling materials, floor tiles, and siding. It is also added to friction products, like brake parts.

Heat-resistant fabrics, gaskets, coatings, and packaging also use asbestos. In the past, it was used for insulating building and products in order to make them fireproof or soundproof.

When products containing asbestos are demolished, repaired, or installed, the fibers turn airborne. When they are swallowed or inhaled, they could permanently lodge the lungs, occurring for decades in some instances. Other organs also might get affected. These fibers cause mesothelioma lung cancer. So the asbestos exposure is the main cause of this cancer.

Genetic mutations mainly cause cancer, and Mesothelioma has the potential to change the DNA of a person. These changes could instigate the cells to divide uncontrollably, which leads to cancer.

How Mesothelioma Develops:

  • Swallowing or inhaling the airborne asbestos fibers.
  • Asbestos fibers get lodged in the outer lining of the heart, abdomen, or lungs.
  • The fibers can destroy the mesothelium cells, leading to inflammation.
  • With time, tumor starts appearing on the mesothelium.

Tumors can be noncancerous or benign. But, when they are cancerous, they are called malignant.

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Who Are At Risk?

The length and amount of exposure will determine the chances of having mesothelioma. People who have jobs with high asbestos exposure, like power plants, steel mills, or construction sites, will have the greatest risk of developing this condition.

Family members can also be exposed to this condition even without the presence of an asbestos-rich environment. Workers may accidentally carry the fibers home in their clothing, which other members of the family may inhale.

The World Health Organization claimed that about 125 million people all over the world were exposed to asbestos at their workplace in the year 2005, despite employees being aware of the link between asbestos and cancer. Most of these exposures are accounted in developing nations.

In rare cases, the condition share links with:

  • Inhaling fibrous silicates, like intrapleural thorium dioxide, zeolite, and erionite.
  • Irradiation.

Types of Mesothelioma

The cell types also differ in Mesothelioma. The type of cells found during the lab test determines the treatment solutions and the life expectancy of the patients. The typical cell types are:

  • Epithelioid Mesothelioma
  • Sarcomatoid Mesothelioma
  • Biphasic Mesothelioma
  • Rare Cell Types
  • Papillary Mesothelioma

There are four located-based types of Mesothelioma, but three of them are most commonly observed. After years of exposure, abnormal cells start to grow and multiply around the mesothelium, seen around organs like abdomen, heart, lungs, or testicles. The location determines the type of mesothelioma.

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1. Pleural Mesothelioma

This type forms around the lungs lining and is quite aggressive and common. About 80 per cent of all the diagnosis of Mesothelioma is pleural, and in most cases, it isn’t diagnosed till the later stages. On an average, patients survive for six to twelve months after getting a diagnosis. The one-year survival rate is 73 per cent, and the five-year survival rate is 5 per cent.

2. Peritoneal Mesothelioma

This type is second-most common with a rate of 15 to 20 per cent mesothelioma cases suffering from this category. Here, the abdominal category is affected which results in symptoms like swelling, abdominal pain, fluid retention, and weight loss.

Life expectancy is better for this category, primarily because of specific new treatment methods. The one-year survival rate is around 92 per cent. Some patients successfully live up to five years after surgical treatments.

3. Pericardial Mesothelioma

This condition is quite rare, accounting for only 1 per cent of total mesothelioma cases. The tumors grow around the heart sac’s lining, also known as pericardium. Common symptoms include arrhythmia, fluid build-up, and chest pain. Because a tumour is close to the heart, the signs are visible in early stages. Patients usually survive for six months on an average with a 51 per cent one-year survival rate.

4. Testicular Mesothelioma

This condition occurs in less than one per cent of the cases. The symptoms observed include fluid build-up leading to scrotal swelling, testicle pain, etc. The life expectancy is better in this type.

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Alternative Treatment Options for Mesothelioma

Alternative treatment solutions might suit individuals who,

  • are not the right candidates for standard treatments
  • choose not to go for a standard treatment option, and
  • want to supplement their current treatment program with alternative methods.

An alternative treatment is known for being unconventional, which include amino acids, teas, vitamins, herbs, massage, acupuncture, and several other supplements that are non-toxic. With limited scientific research, the effectiveness of alternative treatments cannot be particular. Some of the standard treatment solutions include:

1. Body-Based Therapies

These therapies involve movement or manipulation of one or more parts of the body for relieving pain near the joints and bones, lymphatic, and circulatory systems of the body.

  • Acupuncture – It is one of the popular alternative therapies that are used for treating patients with asbestos-related cancers. Reports from an analysis of 11 studies in 2006 showed that acupuncture could reduce vomiting in patients after they undergo chemotherapy. It can also relieve chest pain.
  • Chiropractic Care – Mesothelioma patients have mentioned that this form of treatment helps in relieving stress, tension, and headaches. It can also be helpful in reducing shortness of breath, a common symptom seen in asbestos-related cancers.
  • Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation Therapy – After being approved by the U.S. FDA, practitioners found that using low voltage electrical current can be useful in relieving pain, usually felt around the tumor area.

2. Natural Medicines

Natural medicines are used for several symptoms, including pain in patients suffering from mesothelioma. Some of the treatments that have undergone some amount of scientific study are:

  • Celandine – It is an extract or tea that helps in boosting the immune system and inhibiting tumor growth. In a report submitted by the Institute of Oncology in Ljubljana, Slovenia, in the year 1993 explained that women suffering from symptoms similar to pleural mesothelioma have complete remission after being treated with celandine and chemotherapy.
  • Arsenicum Album – It is a homeopathic solution that helps in soothing the tight chest muscles as well as relaxing the bronchioles, which is very useful for those who have to deal with chest pain.
  • Marshmallow Root – People suffering from a persistent cough have been prescribed this medication which is reported to work for about 36 per cent of people suffering from mesothelioma.

Also Read: How turmeric helps prevent and treat cancer?

Ways to Prevent Mesothelioma Cancer

Even a one-time exposure could trigger mesothelioma. Therefore, it is crucial to prevent it from happening in the first place.

Prevention in the Workplace – In order to prevent this condition, spreading awareness must be important, especially when working in older buildings. Laws have been implemented to make sure the air is tested for asbestos levels.

Workers also need to protect themselves by air monitoring, risk evaluation, communicating hazards with other employees, following correct work practices, offering awareness training, and providing respiratory protection. Workers must also avoid taking work shoes or clothes to their homes.

The disposal of asbestos materials must follow the federal and state regulations. Renovating old buildings that are at high risk is essential with the use of protective equipment using safety procedures.

Prevention at Home – People can be exposed to asbestos at home, especially those who live in old buildings. Asbestos is needed in popcorn ceiling, joint compounds, insulation, flashing, roof shingles, and so on. Professional air tests are mandatory. Renovation work must also need utmost care. Hiring qualified contractors for removing asbestos safely, whenever required, must also be a priority.

Another major step to prevent mesothelioma would be by quitting smoking. Tobacco may not directly cause mesothelioma, but smoking could trigger the condition in people who are susceptible to pleural mesothelioma.

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Best Mesothelioma Book

Educating yourself about mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases can be very useful. Here are a few books that are a must-read:

1. Surviving Mesothelioma and Other Cancers: A Patient’s Guide

This is a book by Paul Kraus, an inspiring story of a survivor. It is about his long journey through the treatment which tells a lot about the optimism and attitude of a survivor. It was during a summer vacation job as a university student that he was exposed to asbestos.

Over thirty years later he was diagnosed with mesothelioma, the asbestos related cancer. Today, he works as a freelance writer and journalist. Paul Kraus’ book has all the information a cancer patient needs to have to learn what survival behavior is about.

Buy Now
Buy Surviving Mesothelioma
and Other Cancers:
A Patient’s Guide
Amazon Rating -> 5start rating

2. Defending the Indefensible

Geoffrey Tweedale ad Jock McCulloch, authors of this book, serve a short history lesson to show how several asbestos companies were part of protecting their asbestos use and how the medical industry, victims of asbestos-related diseases, and media challenged them.

Jock McCulloch and Geoffrey Tweedale are historians with long-term research interests in health, corporate history, and mining. They have published widely on the history of industrial hazards. They have written three books on the asbestos industry covering manufacture and mining in the UK, South Africa, and Australia.

Buy Now
Buy Defending the Indefensible:
The Global Asbestos Industry
and its Fight for Survival
Amazon Rating -> 5start rating

3. White Dust Black Death

A book by Peter Webster depicts a take about the Baryulgil Asbestos Mine which was operated and owned by James Hardie Corporation. The book gives an Australian’s perspective on the horrific effects of asbestos on the community.

Buy Now
Buy White Dust Black Death:
The Tragedy of Asbestos
Mining at Baryulgil

These books are readily available in the online and offline market.

Conclusion

Mesothelioma is a rare condition, but very difficult to diagnose and treat. Therefore, it is necessary for people to be aware of Mesothelioma in order to prevent and treat it effectively. Always eat health fruits and vegetables full of antioxidants like ashwagandha, Indian gooseberry (amla), Broccoli, Blueberries, Walnuts, garlic etc. to prevent cancer.

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Anoop Sharma

About Anoop Sharma

Anoop Sharma is an IT professional, freelance health writer and creator of www.medicinalplantsanduses.com. He is passionate about helping others learn about health issues and their natural remedies, yoga and healthy food.

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