What Causes Mesothelioma and How is it Diagnosed?

Mesothelioma is a rare cancer that affects the tissue that lines the inside of the chest and abdomen, the space around the heart, and most organs. It is usually related to exposure to asbestos, and is divided into different types depending on the part of the mesothelium affected. About 75 to 80% of mesotheliomas begin in the lining that surrounds the lungs (pleural mesothelioma). Other, more rare types of mesothelioma affect tissue in the abdomen (peritoneal mesothelioma), around the heart, and around the testicles.

Research has shown that 80% of all cases of mesothelioma are caused by known exposure to asbestos. There are no other proven causes of mesothelioma, although researchers continue to investigate other possible causes and risk factors, such as exposure to the SV40 virus or minerals that look like asbestos. Asbestos fibers take an average of 20 to 50 years to convert normal mesothelial cells into mesothelioma cancer cells - this time lag between exposure and the development of the disease is known as the latency period.Once mesothelial cells become cancerous, they can quickly form mesothelioma tumors that grow and spread within months to a few years. Other potential risk factors that remain unproven causes of mesothelioma include genetic factors and exposure to radiation, zeolite minerals, and the polio vaccine between 1955 and 1963 that was contaminated with simian virus 40 (SV40).Doctors are working on ways to detect mesothelioma early in its development because the treatment is most effective at an early stage.

If you have symptoms that suggest you may have mesothelioma, your doctor will likely keep a complete medical history to check for symptoms and possible factors that increase your risk for the disease, especially exposure to asbestos. Blood levels of three substances (fibulin-3, osteopontin, and soluble mesothelin-related peptides (SMRP) are usually higher in people with mesothelioma.In approximately 85% of patients, mesothelioma occurs in the membranes surrounding the lungs (malignant pleural mesothelioma). Erionite was first associated with the disorder due to a large increase in the incidence of mesothelioma in Cappadocia, central Anatoli region of Turkey. Pulmonary fibrosis, pulmonary embolism, lung infections, and other lung diseases may need to be differentiated from mesothelioma.People with mesothelioma may also experience general symptoms including fever, weakness, night sweats, unexplained weight loss, and a general feeling of ill health (malaise).

The most common way doctors decide the stage of peritoneal mesothelioma is the peritoneal cancer index (PCI).If you are looking for support for mesothelioma, contact our patient advocates at (85) 404-4592.Learn more about managing mesothelioma symptoms or ask your treatment team for more information.

Marissa Trafford
Marissa Trafford

Extreme travel geek. Hardcore food expert. Hardcore web nerd. Lifelong zombie lover. Incurable zombie specialist. Wannabe travelaholic.