TYPES OF MESOTHELIOMA

Types of Mesothelioma include pleural mesothelioma, peritoneal mesothelioma and pericardial mesothelioma. Mesothelioma cancer affects the mesothelial tissue lining of the body's three largest cavities; the pleura (lung cavity), the peritoneum (abdominal cavity) and the pericardium (heart sac). A type of malignant mesothelioma is based on the section of the mesothelium that it affects.

Pleural Mesothelioma

Pleural mesothelioma is the most common type of malignant mesothelioma (accounting for an approximate 75% of all documented cases of the disease) and affects the section of the mesothelium called the pleura. Although the most common type of malignant mesothelioma, the disease is still somewhat of a rarity. As a result, pleural mesothelioma is often confused with other types of diseases, such as lung cancer and viral pneumonia. Lung cancer can be caused by asbestos (asbestos lung cancer), though it differs from pleural mesothelioma in that it is a malignancy of the lung tissue itself, as opposed to pleural mesothelioma which is a malignancy of the tissue casing of the lungs. Viral pneumonia shares certain symptomatic similarities with pleural mesothelioma and is often misdiagnosed as such.

The most common presenting symptom of pleural malignant mesothelioma is chronic chest pain. A buildup of fluid inside the pleural space can cause severe and chronic chest pains; this is called pleural effusion. Steps can be taken to drain the fluid and relieve the pain (with the possibility of recurrence) or surgery can be performed to close the pleural space (with virtually no possibility of recurrence). Some of the other notable symptoms associated with pleural mesothelioma include:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Chronic coughing
  • Weight loss
  • Fever

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Pericardial Mesothelioma

Pericardial mesothelioma is much less common than malignant mesothelioma of the pleura or peritoneum. In fact there are only about 150 cases ever reported in the medical literature. It affects the section of the mesothelium called the pericardium (the mesothelial lining of the heart). People in the fourth to seventh decades of life are most likely to have this cancer, and there is a 2:1 male to female ratio. Currently, surgical excision (removal) of the pericardium is the treatment for pericardial mesothelioma, primarily to lessen symptoms of constriction around the heart.

Symptoms that are associated with pericardial mesothelioma include:

  • Chest pain
  • Fluid buildup around the heart
  • A mass in the space between the lungs
  • Abnormal or difficult breathing (dyspnea)
  • Chronic coughing
  • Irregular heartbeat (palpitations)

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Mesothelioma of the Tunica Vaginalis Testis

Mesothelioma of the tunica vaginalis testis is the least common type of malignant mesothelioma (amounting to less than 100 of all documented cases of the disease) and affects the section of the mesothelium called the tunica vaginalis testis (the mesothelial lining around the testes). Most patients are in their 50s or older, but about ten percent of the patients are younger than 25 years. Patients generally present with a hydrocele (an accumulation of serous fluid in a sac-like cavity (as the scrotum)) or hernia. Treatment is usually a high inguinal orchiectomy (surgical excision of the entire affected testis through an incision in the lower abdomen - called also orchidectomy). Prognosis is somewhat better than for pleural mesothelioma.

Symptoms that are associated with this cancer include:

  • Hydrocele (a fluid filled sac attached to a testicle)
  • Suspected hernia

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Peritoneal Mesothelioma

Peritoneal mesothelioma is the second most common type of malignant mesothelioma (accounting for an approximate 10% to 20% of all documented cases of the disease) and affects the section of the mesothelium called the peritoneum (the mesothelial lining of the abdomen). Peritoneal mesothelioma is most often caused by the ingestion of carcinogenic asbestos fibers. Inhaled asbestos fibers can become lodged in mucous lining the mouth and esophagus. Once swallowed, it travels through the digestive system where it can potentially become lodged and develop into a tumor.

Some of the notable symptoms that are associated with peritoneal mesothelioma include:

  • Swelling
  • Abdominal pain (resulting from fluid buildup in peritoneal space)
  • Weight loss
  • Abdominal mass
  • Lowered red blood cell count (anemia)
  • Fever
  • Bowel obstruction
  • Blood clotting problems

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