Malignant mesothelioma, which is commonly referred to simply as mesothelioma, is an extremely rare form of cancer that starts in the cells that line the outside of the organs including the heart, lungs, and abdomen. Most often, mesothelioma initially develops in the thin layer of cells lining that serve as the outer lining of the lungs, called the pleura. When mesothelioma starts in this part of the lungs it is referred to as pleural mesothelioma. These types of cases account for about 70% of all mesothelioma cases. The other two types of mesothelioma are peritoneal mesothelioma and pericardial mesothelioma. Peritoneal mesothelioma affects the lining of the abdominal cavity and pericardial mesothelioma affects the lining of the heart.
Doctors believe that the most prevalent cause of mesothelioma is exposure to asbestos or asbestos particles through inhalation. Asbestos is a mineral composed of thin fibrous crystals. The prolonged inhalation of these fibrous crystals is the leading cause of mesothelioma. Asbestos was used by many companies in buildings and factories during the 19th century. It was used in the manufacture of plaster, drywall, vinyl floor tiles, bricks, ceiling insulation, roofing, siding, fireproof materials, pipe insulation, and much more. Its use was not regulated in the United States until the late 1970s. Through litigation it has been determined that many of the companies using materials made with asbestos had known about the dangers of asbestos since the 1930s, but had attempted to conceal those dangers.
Many people who have been exposed to asbestos often do not know that they have been. Symptoms of mesothelioma will not appear in individuals exposed to asbestos until long after the exposure took place; sometimes years and even decades. If you believe you have been exposed to asbestos in the past, you should immediately consult a physician who is trained in diagnosing mesothelioma. The earlier mesothelioma is detected, the more likely it is that the disease will be in the early stages and therefore more easily treatable.
An individual may be at risk to develop mesothelioma if he or she was exposed to asbestos in the workplace or at home. Mesothelioma is caused by exposure to asbestos and the inhalation of asbestos particles. In most cases, mesothelioma symptoms will not appear in an individual exposed to asbestos until many years after the exposure has occurred. Those with a past asbestos exposure history experiencing symptoms should consult a physician with experience in accurately diagnosing mesothelioma. The earlier mesothelioma is diagnosed, the more likely it is to be caught at an early stage. At earlier stages of mesothelioma progression, more treatment options are available and oftentimes a better prognosis is given. Additional mesothelioma information and statistics can be found in this section.