What Organs Does Mesothelioma Mainly Affect?

Mesothelioma is a type of cancer that mainly affects the tissue surrounding the lungs, known as pleura. This type is called pleural mesothelioma. Other, more rare types of mesothelioma can affect tissue in the abdomen, around the heart, and around the testicles. Symptoms of mesothelioma can include fluid buildup in the heart, lungs, and abdomen; pain in the chest, stomach, and back; flu-like symptoms; weight loss; and fatigue.

Mesothelioma is caused by exposure to asbestos fibers that enter the body and adhere to the membranes of tissues that cover internal organs. How mesothelioma affects the body depends largely on how much asbestos has been inhaled or ingested. Mesothelioma often occurs in the lining of the lungs, heart, and abdomen. It is a highly destructive cancer with a low survival rate.

In stage 1 (localized), mesothelioma only affects the area where it started, which is usually the lining around the lung. Pericardial mesothelioma can cause cardiac symptoms such as constrictive pericarditis, heart failure, pulmonary embolism, and cardiac tamponade. Pleural mesothelioma can cause shortness of breath, cough, and chest pain due to fluid accumulation in the pleural space (pleural effusion). Immunohistochemical studies play an important role for pathologists in differentiating malignant mesotheliomas from neoplastic mimetics such as breast or lung cancer that has metastasized to the pleura.

Exposure to erionite is thought to be responsible for high rates of mesothelioma in certain areas. It has been suggested that transport of fibers to the pleura is central to the pathogenesis of mesothelioma. Calretinin is a particularly important marker for distinguishing mesothelioma from metastatic breast or lung cancer.A family history of mesothelioma may also increase your chances of having this disease. A mouse model carrying a Bap1 germline mutation was reported to be much more susceptible to development of asbestos-induced mesotheliomas than similarly exposed siblings who did not carry the mutation.Mesothelioma is a difficult disease to control but understanding how it will affect your body can help you better prepare for what lies ahead.

While a cure isn't possible for many people with mesothelioma, aggressive treatments may extend life expectancy up to a year.

Marissa Trafford
Marissa Trafford

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