Mesothelioma is a rare form of cancer that affects the mesothelium, a protective lining that covers most of the body's internal organs. It is most commonly found in the tissue surrounding the lungs (pleura), but can also affect tissue in the abdomen (peritoneal mesothelioma), around the heart, and around the testicles. The countries with the highest rates of mesothelioma diagnoses include the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Malta, Belgium, Australia, and New Zealand. The signs and symptoms of mesothelioma are not specific to this type of cancer and can be mistaken for other conditions.
However, data shows that approximately 1% of US mesothelioma cases were diagnosed in people under 35 years of age (3% under 45). Treatment for mesothelioma may require a team of medical professionals, such as medical oncologists, radiation oncologists, surgeons, and other specialists. The majority (98%) of pleural and peritoneal mesothelioma cases were diagnosed in medical centers and 2% were detected by death certificate or autopsy; 82% of the “other” cases of mesothelioma were diagnosed in medical centers and 8% were detected by death certificate or autopsy. Exposure to asbestos is known to cause non-malignant diseases such as asbestosis, chronic airway obstruction, pleural plaques, diffuse and localized pleural thickening and rounded atelectasis; 1-3 cancers of the lung, larynx and ovary; 4 and malignant mesothelioma.
Statistics show that mesothelioma is most often diagnosed in men aged 65 and older. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved the orphan drug Alimta (pemetrexed disodium) used in combination with Platinol (cisplatin) to treat people with malignant pleural mesothelioma when surgery is not an option. It is estimated that it could be several decades before cases of mesothelioma begin to decline in these countries, unless they begin to stop using asbestos sooner rather than later. Other malignant forms of cancer may be confused with mesothelioma, including adenocarcinoma which may appear in the lungs or other areas and spread to the lining of the chest (pleura).
The heavy use of brown asbestos is part of the reason why the UK and Australia have some of the highest rates of mesothelioma in the world. Pulmonary fibrosis, pulmonary embolism, lung infections, and other lung diseases may need to be differentiated from mesothelioma. If you have been diagnosed with mesothelioma, you have the right to receive adequate compensation for your injuries. You can call a patient advocate at The Mesothelioma Center for more information about your rights.