What is Mesothelioma?

Mesothelioma is a cancer of the mesothelial cells. Those cells line the body’s cavities and internal organs. When asbestos fibers are inhaled or ingested, the fibers can become lodged in the pleura, the thin, delicate membrane that lines and encases the lung. They can also lodge in the stomach or other organs.

The asbestos fibers irritate and create changes in the cells of the pleura, causing tumors to develop. This is known as pleural mesothelioma, the most common type of mesothelioma. Mesothelioma in the stomach lining is peritoneal mesothelioma. The cancer can develop in other parts of the body, too. It can attack the tissue sac that contains the heart or the tissues that surround the testes.

As the disease progresses, the cancerous cells can metastasize, or spread. As time passes, breathing, sleeping and eating become more difficult. Even the normal activities of daily living can become a challenge.

Types of Mesothelioma

The type of mesothelioma that a person develops depends on the primary organ that is affected.

There are four types of mesothelioma:

  • Pleural Mesothelioma. This form of asbestos cancer is found in the outer lining of the lungs called the mesothelium. This is the most common type of mesothelioma and has been studied to a far greater degree than any of the other forms of the disease.
  • Peritoneal Mesothelioma. Peritoneal mesothelioma affects the lining of the abdomen. Fewer than 20 percent of mesothelioma cases diagnosed in the U.S. each year are peritoneal.
  • Pericardial Mesothelioma. Pericardial mesothelioma attacks the pericardium or the tissue sac that contains the heart and the primary blood vessels. Pericardial mesothelioma accounts for just one percent of all mesothelioma cases.
  • Tunica Vaginalis Mesothelioma. This type of mesothelioma is found in the tissues surrounding the testes. It is the rarest form of the disease, affecting less than one percent of all mesothelioma patients.

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