There are a few different types of mesothelioma, which is sometimes also called asbestos cancer. The type of mesothelioma depends on where the cancer originated.
Types, Symptoms and Prognosis
Plural mesothelioma starts in the chest cavity and is the most common type of mesothelioma. It can spread to other areas of the body, including the brain. Symptoms include shortness of breath and chest pain. Pain in the back or the chest may also be present. As symptoms progress, there may be facial swelling and coughing blood up. As with all types of cancers, various factors affect survival rates; however the average survival rate for people with pleural mesothelioma is seventeen months from the start of symptoms.
Peritoneal mesothelioma starts in the abdomen. It may spread to the bowel and liver. Survival rates tend to be lower than plural mesothelioma. Peritoneal mesothelioma may cause weight loss, nausea and vomiting. Fluid may accumulate in the abdomen, which can lead to abdominal pain. Additional symptoms include fever, anemia and bowel obstructions may develop. The average survival rate is about ten months from the onset of symptoms.
The rarest form of mesothelioma is pericardial and involves the sac around the heart. Because this types of cancer is considered extremely rate, accurate survival statistics are not available. Pericardial mesothelioma may cause symptoms similar to a myocardial infraction. Symptoms include pain the chest, shortness of breath and nausea.
Making A Diagnosis
One of the first steps in making a diagnosis of mesothelioma is completing a physical exam and medical history. Exposure to asbestos and other risk factors will be discussed. A chest x-ray is often ordered to look for abnormalities, such as fluid in the pleural space. A Ct scan or MRI may also be recommended in some cases.
If fluid has accumulated in the pleural space or the abdomen, a sample may be obtained and tested for the presence of cancer cells. A bronchoscopy may also be performed if mesothelioma is suspected in the pleural space. This involves inserting a tube into the trachea, which allows the physician to view the airway and the lungs. A tissue sample can be taken during the procedure to check for abnormal cells.
Since mesothelioma cancer cells may appear similar to other types of cancer cells, a diagnosis is sometimes difficult to make. Specialized laboratory procedures may be used to detect small differences in the cells, which helps make a diagnosis of mesothelioma.
National Cancer Institute