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Mesothelioma

 

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Mesothelioma: what is it?

 The mesothelium is the thin membrane that lines the three serous cavities within the human body: the pleural cavity, containing the lungs; the pericardial cavity, containing the heart; and the peritoneal cavity, containing the stomach, the liver, the intestine, the spleen and, in the female, the ovaries and the uterus. Besides lining the serous cavities, the mesothelium also covers the outside of the organs contained in those cavities.

 Mesothelioma is the cancer of mesothelium. It can be benign or more commonly malignant. Depending on the body area where it develops, mesothelioma is classified in different types, which, in order of their frequency, are: pleural mesothelioma, peritoneal mesothelioma and pericardial mesothelioma.

Mesothelioma develops when some cells of the mesothelium begin to grow abnormally out of control and form a mass called a tumor, which can compress internal organs and interfere with their proper functioning. These cells can also invade and destroy nearby tissues and sometimes spread through the bloodstream to distant organs, forming metastasis. Nobody knows why, at a certain point of their life cycle, some cells become abnormal. However it has been shown that people at the greatest risk of developing mesothelioma are those exposed to high levels of asbestos or those exposed to asbestos (regardless of exposure level) for many years.

 Symptoms of mesothelioma are not specific to the condition, but are common with many other diseases. They usually vary depending on where mesothelioma develops. Symptoms of pleural and pericardial mesothelioma generally include chest pain, short or difficult breathing and dry cough, while symptoms of peritoneal mesothelioma are usually related to abdominal organs and include abdominal pain or swelling, diarrhea or constipation and weight loss without apparent reason.

 Although mesothelioma is a rare disease, whenever a patient develops the symptoms above he should consult with the doctor to confirm or rule out a diagnosis of mesothelioma, since untreated mesothelioma can lead to severe, life-threatening complications.

Mesothelioma and General Health condition

 Just as with many other types of cancer, the treatment of mesothelioma depends on the general health of the patient, as well as on the cancer stage and its location.

Surgical removal is usually effective when the cancer is diagnosed at an early stage, otherwise it has to be combined with chemotherapy or radiation therapy to prevent the remaining cancer cells from growing and/or spreading and relieve signs and symptoms as much as possible. In any case, it is important to remember that mesothelioma is often diagnosed at a stage too advanced to be completely removed by surgery, and hence long-term combination therapy is often the only option to control it.

Finally, alternative therapies* such as acupuncture, relaxation and breath training, can help relieve certain symptoms related to mesothelioma (especially shortness of breath), although they are not substitutes for traditional therapy, since they cannot cure the disease but only improve the symptoms.



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*Always seek professional medical advise from a qualified doctor before undergoing any treatment.



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