Mesothelioma is one of the rarest, yet most aggressive types of cancer linked to asbestos exposure. This type of cancer occurs in the mesothelium, the thin layer of tissue covering nearly all of the major organs in the body. When many people think of mesothelioma, they typically connect this disease to the lungs. While the lungs are the most common location mesothelioma occurs, doctors and medical specialists have devised a classification system for mesothelioma determined by the location of where mesothelioma develops. Because mesothelioma is a complex cancer, classifying this illness into four main categories according to location helps medical professionals and patients better understand the symptoms, survival rates, and determine appropriate treatment options. Here is a general overview of the different types of mesothelioma.
What Is Mesothelioma?
Mesothelioma is an aggressive type of cancer that typically begins in the thin lining of most of the major organs, such as the lungs, abdomen, and heart. Mesothelioma is rare because it is almost always linked to the exposure to asbestos, a hazardous carcinogenic substance used in numerous products and materials up through the 1980s, which still poses a threat to people’s health today. When a product or material, such as asbestos insulation in an old home, is disturbed, tiny asbestos fibers can be released into the air, which can make their way into a person’s respiratory system where the fibers settle into the tissue lining. Because the body has a difficult time driving out these microfibers, they can settle into the body system and create damage over time. This damage, especially when there is repeated exposure to asbestos, often causes the development of mesothelioma. Mesothelioma usually develops in the thin lining of different organs, and as the disease develops in the cells and/or the tumor grows, it wreaks havoc on the rest of the body. While there are several treatment options, the prognosis is often grim.
Below are the four types of mesothelioma types, named for the area of the body in which the cancer develops.
Location: Thin tissue lining of the lungs (pleural tissue)
Stats: Accounts for close to 75 percent of the approximately 3,000 mesothelioma cases each year in the United States.
Pleural mesothelioma is the most common form of mesothelioma located in the ling of the lungs. This type of cancer develops as a result of inhaling the miniscule asbestos fibers which settle into the mesothelium.
Symptoms typically include the following:
- Persistent chest pain, particularly under the rib cage
- Painful cough
- Difficulty swallowing
- Unusual lumps under the skin around the chest area
- Shortness of breath
- Rapid and/or unexplained weight loss
Testing and Diagnosis
When a patient presents with symptoms, a doctor may order a series of tests and diagnostic studies. Pleural mesothelioma is typically revealed in diagnostic images of the chest. CT scans (computerized tomography scans) and MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) studies can show growths in the body not seen from the outside. While these diagnostic images can help a doctor visualize abnormal growths in the chest/lungs, further testing may include more scans, fluid and/or tissue biopsies, and blood tests. Specialists can examine fluid, tissue, and blood for signs of mesothelioma to make an accurate diagnosis. After diagnosis, the doctor can determine the best method of treatment, depending on how far along the cancer has progressed.
Location: Thin lining around the exterior of the abdomen and abdominal organs (peritoneum)
Stats: Accounts for between 10 and 20 percent of the nearly 3,000 mesothelioma cases diagnosed in the United States each year.
Second to pleural mesothelioma, mesothelioma of the abdomen is a rare form of cancer which develops when tiny asbestos fibers are ingested or transported to the abdomen via the lymphatic system, and become lodged into the peritoneum, the thin lining surrounding the abdomen. Over time, the fibers can cause cell abnormalities that become cancerous.
Symptoms of peritoneal mesothelioma may include:
- Severe pain in the abdomen
- Swelling in the abdomen
- Unusual lumps in the abdominal tissue
- Sudden and/or unexplained weight loss
Testing and Diagnosis
If a patient presents with these symptoms, a doctor may order diagnostic imaging and other tests to rule out mesothelioma or make an accurate diagnosis. CT scanning and MRI scans may reveal a thickening of the peritoneal lining, small nodules, or a large tumor; the former being more common and the latter less common. Depending on the diagnostic findings, a doctor will then order a cell biopsy by either needle or surgery to accurately diagnose peritoneal mesothelioma.
Location: Sac encasing the heart
Stats: Accounts for only 1-2 percent of all mesothelioma diagnoses.
Pericardial mesothelioma is the rarest form of mesothelioma affecting the lining of the heart. This type of cancer develops as a result of inhalation or ingestion of asbestos fibers. Researchers are still determining how the asbestos fibers travel to the heart and settle in the pericardium.
Symptoms of pericardial mesothelioma may include:
- Severe chest pain
- Labored/difficulty breathing
- Persistent cough
- Abnormal/rapid heartbeat (tachycardia)
- Heart murmurs
- Hypotension (low blood pressure)
Because of the aggressive nature of this type of mesothelioma, symptoms may worsen at an accelerated rate, making it difficult to properly diagnosis this rare type of cancer. According to one study, however, new research into innovative diagnostic testing is being performed to “differentiate pericardial mesothelioma from other pericardial tumors and diseases.”
Testing and Diagnosis
As with other mesothelioma testing methods, a patient presenting with these symptoms may be referred for diagnostic imaging. If the scans indicate growths or abnormalities in the chest and around the heart, a biopsy may be ordered to definitively diagnose pericardial mesothelioma.
Location: Tissue lining the testicles (tunica vaginalis)
Stats: Extremely rare, affecting less than 1 percent of all mesothelioma diagnoses (about 100 reported cases).
Testicular mesothelioma develops in the thin membrane (tunica vaginalis) lining the testicles. Along with the pericardial mesothelioma, researchers are still exploring the development of this type of testicular cancer and how it develops in the testes. Some studies even suggest that while about with about 40 percent of cases are linked to asbestos, some studies have found the disease in patients with no history exposure to asbestos. More research is needed to fully understand this incredibly rare illness.
Symptoms of testicular mesothelioma may include:
- Pain in the testes, groin, and genital region
- Swelling in the scrotum (from excess fluid)
- Testicular lump or mass
Testing and Diagnosis
If a patient presents with these symptoms, or a doctor finds irregularities during a routine physical, further studies may be ordered. Diagnostic imaging and ultrasound can find lumps, masses, and irregularities in the tissue lining. Then, a doctor will likely order blood tests, followed by fluid and tissue biopsies to make an accurate diagnosis.
Talk To A Mesothelioma Lawyer About Your Case
These are the four classifications for different types of mesothelioma. It is important to keep in mind that due to the complexity of this type of cancer, continuous mesothelioma research has lead doctors and other medical specialists to make progress in improving methods for accurate testing, diagnosis, and treatments using innovative approaches and state-of-the-art technology. While the prognosis for mesothelioma is often grim, there is hope for finding more effective methods to diagnose, treat, and eventually cure this aggressive form of cancer.
If you have questions about your mesothelioma diagnosis, or that of a loved one, please reach out to our team of compassionate, dedicated mesothelioma lawyers for a free case evaluation. At Napoli Shkolnik PLLC, our mesothelioma law firm is highly skilled and experienced in handling even the most complex asbestos lawsuits. Our team of lawyers understands the physical, emotional, and financial devastation a mesothelioma diagnosis can cause an individual and their loved ones. This is why we are passionate about finding justice for you or your loved one by aggressively seeking legal compensation for your pain and suffering from the negligent party. Call our mesothelioma attorneys today and let us fight for you. Reach out to us online, or call us at (844)230-7676 to arrange an appointment for a no-obligation consultation to discuss your case.