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Mesothelioma: What is it? The definition of Mesothelioma is the cancer of the mesothelium, a sac that protects the body’s internal organs. The mesothelium is comprised of two layers; the first is a layer around the organs while the other makes the sac on top of it. The mesothelium takes on a different name for each organ that it covers. The mesothelial tissue that covers the chest cavity and the lungs is called the pleura. The peritoneum and the pericardium are the tissues that protect most of the organs in the abdominal cavity and protect the heart, respectively. The mesothelium secretes a liquid that acts as lubrication for the organs inside of it, making it possible for their movements to be without difficulty. The liquid produced facilitates the lung and heart expanding and contracting to perform their essential functions. Like other cancers, mesothelioma forms when atypical cells divide and spread. When an individual has mesothelioma, the lubricating liquid mentioned earlier is over-produced. This overproduction of fluid coats the organs in a heavy layer of tumor tissue. In even more severe cases of mesothelioma, the cells grow and spread to other organs.
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The mesothelium around the lungs, the pleura, is the most commonly affected by mesothelioma. Mesothelioma can also occur around the heart (pericardial mesothelioma) or around the abdominal cavity (peritoneal mesothelioma).
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Diagnosing the cancer can be challenging because the symptoms of mesothelioma are common to other maladies. There are research initiatives searching for treatments of mesothelioma, as the current options have not reached the desired effectiveness. The breathing in or consuming of asbestos fibers causes mesothelioma. The rough fibers of asbestos produce scarring of the mesothelial tissue, leading to asbestosis or pleural plaques. The scarring from the fibers is also what leads to mesothelioma. It is common for the symptoms of mesothelioma to remain dormant for 20 to 50 years post-exposure. This time is also known as a latency period. The latency period means that those who are diagnosed often worked with asbestos 20 to 50 years ago. During that time, a lot of workers went without protection into areas where there was heavy dust and asbestos fibers. However, it was not uncommon for the companies employing these workers to know about the presence of asbestos is these areas as well as the extremely harmful effects that it could have in the workers. Tradesmen were particularly vulnerable and are among the likeliest to be exposed to asbestos regularly, including: bricklayers, pipe fitters, electricians, insulators, ship builders and workers, etc. Because the asbestos fibers cling on to clothes, skin, and hair, the families of these workers are also at risk. Mesothelioma that is caught early and treated in the correct way has significantly better numbers than advanced cases. Remember that any information or statistics on survival rates should only be used as a general reference, not as an individual diagnosis. Patients should talk to their doctors about individual consultations and prognosis. Millions of individuals have regrettably been exposed to asbestos through the years. Contact with asbestos in the workplace is just starting to show us its devastating effects on those exposed. The quickest diagnosis possible is imperative to effectively treat this cancer. If you think it is possible that you were exposed to asbestos, I urge you to go see your doctor.