Malignant Mesothelioma is a rare but aggressive cancer that affects the lining of the lungs, abdomen, or heart. It is primarily caused by exposure to asbestos fibers, which can be inhaled or ingested and then get embedded in the body’s tissues. Cancer often develops years or even decades after the initial asbestos exposure.
Types of Malignant Mesothelioma
There are several types of malignant mesothelioma, including epithelioid, sarcomatoid, and biphasic.
Epithelioid mesothelioma is the most common type, accounting for about 70% of cases, and has a better prognosis than the other types. The other types of Malignant Mesothelioma are –
- Pleural mesothelioma – This type of mesothelioma affects the lining of the lungs, known as the pleura. It is the most common type of mesothelioma, accounting for about 75% of all cases.
- Peritoneal mesothelioma – This type of mesothelioma affects the lining of the abdomen, known as the peritoneum. It accounts for about 20% of all cases of mesothelioma.
- Pericardial mesothelioma – This type of mesothelioma affects the lining of the heart, known as the pericardium. It is the rarest form of mesothelioma, accounting for only about 1% of all cases.
- Testicular mesothelioma – This type of mesothelioma affects the lining of the testicles. It is the rarest form of mesothelioma and accounts for only about 1% of all cases.
In addition to these primary types of mesothelioma, several subtypes are classified based on the types of cells that are affected. These include epithelioid, sarcomatoid, and biphasic mesothelioma. Each type of mesothelioma is associated with different symptoms, treatments, and prognoses.
- Epithelioid – It accounts for 70% of diagnoses and is the most responsive to treatment.
- Sarcomatoid – It is found in 10% of diagnoses, has a poor prognosis, and shorter life expectancy.
- Biphasic mesothelioma – It is a combination of epithelioid and sarcomatoid cells. It contributes to 30% to 40% of cases.
The symptoms of malignant mesothelioma depend on the location and stage of cancer and may include –
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pain
- Persistent cough
- Loss of appetite
- Weight loss
- Abdominal pain and swelling
- Bowel obstruction
- Nausea and vomiting
- Difficulty swallowing
- Swelling of the face and arms
- Irregular heartbeat
- Fever and night sweats
However, these symptoms may also be caused by other medical conditions, and having one or more of these symptoms doesn’t necessarily mean that you have malignant mesothelioma. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, it’s important to consult with your healthcare provider for an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment.
Several tests are performed for effective diagnosis of mesothelioma. It is most commonly associated with asbestos exposure and can be easily diagnosed with biopsy.
Other malignant mesotheliomas diagnosis to determine the presence of tumors are –
- Medical history and physical examination -The doctor will ask about the patient’s medical history and perform a physical examination to look for signs and symptoms of mesothelioma, such as chest pain, shortness of breath, and fluid buildup in the chest or abdomen.
- Imaging tests – Imaging tests such as X-rays, CT scans, and MRI scans can help to identify any abnormalities or tumors in the body.
- Biopsy – If imaging tests suggest the presence of a tumor, the doctor will perform a biopsy to confirm the diagnosis of mesothelioma. This involves removing a small sample of tissue from the affected area and examining it under a microscope to identify the presence of tumors.
- Laboratory tests – Laboratory tests such as blood tests and biomarker tests may also be used to diagnose mesothelioma and monitor its progression.
It is important to note that diagnosing malignant mesothelioma can be challenging, and a thorough evaluation by a team of experienced healthcare professionals is essential. In some cases, additional tests may be necessary to confirm the diagnosis and determine the extent of cancer.
The staging of malignant mesothelioma refers to the extent or spread of cancer in the body and helps doctors determine the best course of treatment.
There are several staging systems used for malignant mesothelioma and the most commonly used system is the TNM system. This system classifies cancer based on three factors –
- Tumor (T) – This refers to the size and extent of the primary tumor. The tumor is classified as T1, T2, T3, or T4, depending on its size and whether it has spread to nearby organs.
- Lymph Nodes (N) – This refers to whether cancer has spread to nearby lymph nodes. The lymph nodes are classified as N0 (no lymph node involvement) or N1 (lymph node involvement).
- Metastasis (M) – This refers to whether cancer has spread to other parts of the body. Metastasis is classified as M0 (no metastasis) or M1 (metastasis present).
Using these three factors, the TNM system assigns a stage to cancer. The stages are –
- Stage I – The cancer is confined to the lining of one side of the chest (pleura) or abdomen (peritoneum), and has not spread to nearby lymph nodes or other parts of the body.
- Stage II – The cancer is spread beyond the lining of one side of the chest or abdomen, but still has not spread to distant sites in the body.
- Stage III – The cancer is spread to nearby lymph nodes or to other organs in the chest or abdomen.
- Stage IV -The cancer is spread to distant sites in the body, such as the lungs, liver, or bones.
It is necessary to keep in mind that the staging of malignant mesothelioma can be complex, and may involve additional factors such as the type of mesothelioma (epithelioid, sarcomatoid, or biphasic) and the patient’s overall health. Talking to your doctor will help you with more detailed information about the staging of cancer-related to your specific case.
Unfortunately, there is no cure for malignant mesothelioma, but there are several treatment options available that can help to relieve symptoms, slow the progression of the disease, and improve the quality of life for patients.
The treatment approach for malignant mesothelioma depends on various factors such as the location and stage of cancer, the patient’s overall health, and their preferences. Some of the commonly used treatment options for malignant mesothelioma include –
- Surgery – Surgery can be an option for early-stage mesothelioma to remove as much of the cancer as possible. The type of surgery used depends on the location of the tumor but can include procedures such as a pleurectomy/decortication (removal of the pleural lining and any visible tumors) or extrapleural pneumonectomy (removal of the lung, pleura, and other tissues).
- Chemotherapy – Chemotherapy is a systemic treatment that uses drugs to kill cancer cells. It can be given orally or intravenously and can be used alone or in combination with other treatments.
- Radiation therapy – Radiation therapy uses high-energy radiation to kill cancer cells. It can be used alone or in combination with other treatments.
- Immunotherapy – Immunotherapy is a newer treatment option that uses drugs to help the patient’s immune system recognize and attack cancer cells. Some types of immunotherapy used for mesothelioma include checkpoint inhibitors and CAR-T cell therapy.
- Palliative care – Palliative care focuses on managing symptoms and improving the quality of life for patients with advanced or incurable cancer. It can involve pain management, emotional support, and other interventions to help patients feel more comfortable and improve their quality of life.
It is cohesively important to work closely with a team of medical professionals who specialize in the treatment of mesothelioma to determine the best approach for each patient.
Unfortunately, there is no guaranteed way to prevent the development of malignant mesothelioma, but there are several steps that individuals can take to reduce their risk of developing the disease. Here are some preventive measures that may be helpful –
- Avoiding asbestos exposure – The best way to prevent mesothelioma is to avoid asbestos exposure. If you work in an industry that uses or handles asbestos, it is important to follow safety guidelines and wear protective gear, such as masks and gloves.
- Avoid smoking – Smoking can increase the risk of developing mesothelioma in people who have been exposed to asbestos. Therefore, quitting smoking or avoiding it altogether can help reduce the risk of mesothelioma.
- Regular check-ups and screening – Regular health check-ups and screening can help detect mesothelioma early on when it is more treatable. This is especially important for individuals who have been exposed to asbestos in the past.
- Maintaining a healthy lifestyle – Maintaining a healthy lifestyle, including a balanced diet and regular exercise, can help reduce the risk of developing cancer.
- Avoiding exposure to other carcinogens – Exposure to other cancer-causing substances, such as radiation and certain chemicals, can also increase the risk of developing mesothelioma. Avoiding exposure to these substances can help reduce the risk of mesothelioma and other cancers.
In conclusion, malignant mesothelioma is a devastating disease that can be caused by exposure to asbestos. While there is currently no cure, early detection and management of symptoms can improve outcomes for patients. Prevention efforts should continue to focus on reducing exposure to asbestos in the workplace and other environments.
As well as, the prognosis for malignant mesothelioma is generally poor, as it is often diagnosed at an advanced stage and is resistant to many forms of treatment. However, there are some treatment options available that can help manage symptoms and improve quality of life. These may include surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and immunotherapy.
Prevention is the key to reducing the incidence of malignant mesothelioma, and this can be achieved by avoiding asbestos exposure. Especially, those who work in industries where asbestos exposure is at higher risk should take appropriate precautions such as wearing protective clothing and using proper ventilation to avoid serious health conditions.