A Synopsis of Mesothelioma

Introduction Mesothelioma is a cancer that affects the tissues that surround and protect different parts of the body. This tissue is called mesothelium, and mesothelioma causes it to become abnormal, divides uncontrollably, invades and destroys nearby organs. The most common type is pleural mesothelioma which affects the sac that lines the chest cavity and protects the lungs (pleura). Other types are peritoneal mesothelioma (affects the abdominal cavity) and pericardial mesothelioma (affects the lining around the heart). Tumors can be malignant (non-cancerous) or benign (cancerous) although they are usually benign.


Mesothelioma is caused by breathing asbestos, a fibrous carcinogen. These fibers penetrate the lining of the lungs and affect the mesothelial cells. Sometimes they cause lung cancer (called asbestosis), but not cancer. However, they can develop tumors between 20 and 50 years after their inhalation (the average is 35 to 40 years). Asbestos particles that have been defeated can reach the cavity of the abdominal cavity where they participate in the development of peritoneal mesothelioma. It is generally the case that the longer or longer exposure to asbestos, the more mesothelioma can occur. However, there are people who develop mesothelioma years after working with it for only a few months. Families of asbestos workers are also at risk because they may have been exposed to asbestos fibers in the clothing of their loved ones.

The dangers of asbestos are now well known, but this is not always the case. Prior to the 1970s, asbestos was a primary insulation material with little or no control over its use or management. The increase in mesothelioma is the result of these previous actions. Symptoms 

Mesothelioma often develops before symptoms appear. This means that the prognosis is generally poor, and the average survival time for all stages of benign mesothelioma is about one year. Symptoms like pneumonia, cough, shortness of breath and abdominal pain are common.


Mesothelioma can be treated with chemotherapy, radiotherapy or surgery, or a combination of the three. Surgery 

Extrapleural pneumonectomy involves removing the lung and part of the chest wall, the diaphragm, and part or all of the material surrounding the chest.

Wide field ablation targets and removes the cancer and a small amount of healthy tissue surrounding the cancer. Both pleurectomy and cosmetic surgery remove part of the lining of the lung, as well as the lining of the chest and the outer part of the lung.

Pleurodesis uses a combination of chemicals and/or drugs to create an intentional wound between the layers of the pleura. After surgery, the cavity created by the wound will be drained, using a catheter or chest tube, and filled with a chemical that prevents the production of fluid in the pleural space.


Radiation therapy uses high-intensity radiation to kill cancer cells. In external radiotherapy, a machine delivers radiation in a targeted stream to certain areas of the body 

Internal radiation therapy uses needles, seeds and catheters to inject radioactive material directly into or near the cancer.


Chemotherapy uses drugs targeted at cancer cells to stop them from dividing and thereby inhibiting their growth.