Mesothelioma Glossary

Mesothelioma Doctors New York


ASBESTOS CONTAINING MATERIALS (ACM): Materials such as ceiling tiles, floor tiles, gaskets, packing, joint compound, heat insulation and brake linings produced before 1990 commonly contained asbestos.

ADENOCARCINOMA: Type of cancer that begins in the cells that line certain internal organs such as the lungs.

ADJUVENT THERAPY: A supplemental treatment to the main medical procedure. This treatment usually comes in the form of radiation therapy or chemotherapy, and is employed after surgery.

AFFIDAVIT: A written statement whereby the signer swears to its truth before a notary or other judicial officer. A witness affidavit may be accepted in place of testimony in court.

AJCC STAGING SYSTEM: American Joint Committee on Cancer staging system (also called the TNM system), which describes the extent of a cancer’s spread in Roman numerals from 0-IV.

ALIMTA: A chemotherapy drug developed by Eli Lilly specifically for mesothelioma patients.

ALVEOLAR EPITHELIAL CELLS: Cells that line the lung air sacs.

ALVEOLAR SACS: Small air chambers in the lung.

ALVEOLI: Tiny, thin walled air sacs in the lungs where oxygen and carbon dioxide exchange places. Asbestos fibers in the lungs cause scar tissue to form on the walls of the alveoli, decreasing oxygen intake.

AMPHIBOLE: A type of mineral, distinguished by a chain-like crystal structure and chemical composition. Asbestos amphiboles include actinolite, amosite, anthophillite, crocidolite, and tremolite.

ANEMIA: A condition in which the number of red blood cells is below normal.

ANXIETY: Anxiety is a state of apprehension or fear, either real or imagined, resulting from anticipation of a threatening event or situation. Many victims of mesothelioma and their loved ones are faced with stress and anxiety.

APPEAL: A request to a higher court to reverse the decision of a lower court.

ARRHYTHMIA: An arrhythmia is any deviation from or disturbance of the normal heart rhythm.

ASBESTIFORM: A mineral that looks like asbestos.

ASBESTOS: is the commercial name given to a naturally occurring fibrous silicate mineral commonly used in construction materials and other products because of its high heat resistance, strength and durability. Over time, exposure to asbestos may lead to asbestosis, mesothelioma, lung cancer and other cancers.

ASBESTOSIS: Scarring of the lungs caused by inhaled asbestos fibers. Asbestosis is irreversible.

ASBESTOS PLEURAL DISEASE: A disease characterized specifically by scarring of the membranes lining the lungs and chest cavity.

ASCITES: Abnormal build-up of fluid in the abdomen that may cause swelling. In late-stage cancer, tumor cells may be found in the fluid in the abdomen. Ascites is a common manifestation of peritoneal mesothelioma and can occur as a manifestation of recurrent mesothelioma after surgery for the disease in the chest.

ASPIRATION: The medical process of removing a small sample of tissue for testing with a needle-like suction device.

ATELECTASIS: Incomplete expansion of a portion of the lung or the whole lung.

AUTOPSY: A surgical procedure after death which involves the examination of body tissues, often to determine cause of death.


BACKGROUND LEVEL: The average or expected amount of a substance in a specific environment.

BILATERAL: Disease in both lungs.

BIOMARKERS: A protein or compound easily detectable in the body that indicates an exposure has occurred.

BIOPSY: The removal of cells or tissues for examination under a microscope. When only a sample of tissue is removed, the procedure is called an incisional biopsy or core biopsy. When an entire lump or suspicious area is removed, the procedure is called an excisional biopsy. When a sample of tissue or fluid is removed with a needle, the procedure is called a needle biopsy or fine-needle aspiration. Pleural biopsies are used to make the diagnosis of mesothelioma.

BIPHASIC: A mesothelioma which has both epithelial and sarcomatoid elements. Also called a mixed mesothelioma.

B-READER: A person certified by NIOSH as qualified to interpret chest x-rays especially for dust disease, including asbestos disease.

BRONCHI: The two main air passages leading from the windpipe (trachea). They allow air to move in and out of the lungs.

BRONCHIOLE: One of the smaller subdivisions of the bronchi.


BRONCHOPLEURAL FISTULA: A complication after extrapleural pneumonectomy in which there is a leakage of air from the closed bronchial tube.

BRONCHOSCOPY: A thin, lighted tube (bronchoscope) inserted through the nose or mouth to examine the breathing passages at the entrance to your lungs.

BUTCHART STAGING SYSTEM: The staging system most often used for mesothelioma. It is divided into stages I-IV with the levels determined by the tissue involved.


CACHEXIA: Loss of body weight and muscle mass, and weakness that may occur in patients with cancer, AIDS, or other chronic disease. Cachexia is a common manifestation of late stage mesothelioma.

CALCIFICATION: Process in which tissue becomes hardened as a result of calcium deposits.

CANCER: An abnormal growth of cells which tend to proliferate in an uncontrolled way and, in some cases, to metastasize (spread).

CANCER CENTER: A hospital that specializes only in the care of patients with cancer. An NCI designated cancer center is specifically recognized and partially funded by the National Cancer Institute.

CARCINOGENIC: Substances that produce cancer or cancer growth.

CARDIOLOGIST: A specialist in the treatment of conditions related to the heart who would perform the appropriate tests to see if a patient is functionally able to tolerate surgery for mesothelioma.

CATHETER: A tube which could be used to drain urine from the bladder; an intravenous catheter is used to give fluids in the vein.

CHEMOTHERAPY: Drug treatment to destroy cancer cells.

CHEST X-RAY: A chest x-ray is a radiology test that involves exposing the chest briefly to radiation to produce an image of the chest and the internal organs of the chest. Chest x-rays can be used to define abnormalities of the lungs such as excessive fluid, pneumonia, bronchitis, asthma, cysts, and cancers.

CHRONIC: Occurring over a long time.

CHRONIC OBSTRUCTIVE PULMONARY DISEASE (COPD): A progressive lung disease process characterized by difficulty breathing, wheezing, and a chronic cough. Complications include bronchitis, pneumonia and lung cancer.

CHRYSOTILE: Type of asbestos with a white curly fiber, chrysotile accounts for 90% of asbestos in products and is a member of the serpentine group. It is a magnesium silicate.

CISPLATIN: Platinum-containing chemotherapy agent that works by binding to DNA of tumor cells.

CLINICAL TRAILS: Research studies that test how new medical treatments and other interventions work in people. Tests may be preventative, diagnostic or therapeutic.

COMPLAINT: The document filed with the court stating the facts of your case and your legal claims against the asbestos companies.

COMPLEMENTARY AND ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE (CAM): Forms of treatment that are used in addition to (complementary) or instead of (alternative) standard treatments. These practices generally are not considered standard medical approaches. CAM may include dietary supplements, megadose vitamins, herbal preparations, special teas, acupuncture, massage therapy, magnet therapy, spiritual healing, and meditation.

COMPLETE RESPONSE: The disappearance of all signs of cancer in response to treatment. This does not always mean the cancer has been cured. Also called a complete remission.

CONTAMINANT: A substance that is present in a certain amount of soil, water, air, food, blood, hair, urine, breath, or any other media.

CROCIDOLITE: A member of the amphibole group of asbestos, crocidolite takes the form of blue, straight fibers. It is sodium iron magnesium silicate.

CRYOSURGERY: The use of an extremely cold probing instrument to destroy unwanted abnormal tissues.

CT SCAN: A type of x-ray that takes cross-sections of the body (like slices). Much more precise than typical x-rays.

CURATIVE TREATMENT: Treatment aimed at producing a cure. Compare with palliative treatment.

CYTOLOGY: The branch of biological science that deals with the structure and function of cells. In asbestos cases, it often refers to the testing of liquid removed from the outside of the lung.


DECORTATION: Removal of the external layer of an organ.

DEFENDANT: The asbestos companies that you are suing for damages.

DERMAL: Referring to the skin. For example, dermal absorption means passing through the skin.

DIAGNOSIS: The nature of a disease; the identification of an illness.

DIAPHRAGM: Muscular, membranous partition that separates the abdominal and thoracic cavities.

DIFFERENTIAL DIAGNOSIS: The determination of which two or more diseases with similar symptoms is the one from which a patient is suffering based on an analysis of the clinical data.

DIFFUSE: Not limited or localized; widely distributed.

DISEASE: Illness or sickness often characterized by typical problems (symptoms) and physical findings (signs).

DOSE: The amount of a substance to which a person is exposed over some time period. Dose is a measurement of exposure. In general, the greater the dose, the greater the likelihood of an effect. An “exposure dose” is how much of a substance is encountered in the environment. An “absorbed dose” is the amount of a substance that actually got into the body through the eyes, skin, stomach, intestines, or lungs.

DOSE-RESPONSE RELATIONSHIP: The relationship between the amount of exposure (dose) and the resulting changes in body function or health (response).

DYSPNEA: Difficult, painful breathing or shortness of breath. One of the early symptoms of mesothelioma in the pleura due to the accumulation of fluid in the chest.


ECHOCARDIOGRAM: A test that uses sound waves to create a moving picture of the heart. The picture is much more detailed than an x-ray image and involves no radiation exposure.

ENDOSCOPE: An illuminated optic instrument that is inserted through an incision.

EPA: The US government agency founded to “protect human health and to safeguard the natural environment–air, water and land–upon which life depends.” The Environmental Protection Agency is known as the EPA.

EPIDEMIOLOGICAL: Studies of how health-related conditions occur in specific populations.

EPIDEMIOLOGY: The study of the distribution and determinants of disease or health status in a population; the study of the occurrence and causes of health effects in humans.

EPIDURAL CATHETER: A catheter which allows injection of an anesthetic drug into the space between the wall of the spinal canal and the covering of the spinal cord. This is the most reliable means for short term pain relief after an operation for mesothelioma.

EPITHELIAL: Refers to the cells that line the internal and external surfaces of the body; the term used to describe the appearance of the cells under the microscope for the most common type of mesothelioma.

ESOPHAGITIS: Inflammation of the esophagus (the tube that carries food from the mouth to the stomach). This most frequently occurs in the area of chest radiation after an operation for mesothelioma.

EXPOSURE: Contact with a substance by swallowing, breathing, or touching the skin or eyes. Exposure may be short-term (acute exposure), of intermediate duration, or long-term (chronic exposure).

EXTERNAL-BEAM OPERATION: Radiation therapy that uses a machine to aim high-energy rays at the cancer. Also called external radiation. Most commonly used after removal of an entire lung for mesothelioma.

EXTRAPLEURAL PNEUMONECTOMY: Surgery to remove a diseased lung, part of the pericardium (membrane covering the heart), part of the diaphragm (muscle between the lungs and the abdomen), and part of the parietal pleura (membrane lining the chest). This type of surgery is used most often to treat malignant mesothelioma.


FIBROSIS: Formation of fibrous tissue (scarring) in an organ as part of