Mesothelioma is a rare form of cancer that affects the thin lining on the lungs and abdomen, called the mesothelium.
Unlike other types of cancer (where the exact cause is unknown), mesothelioma has been directly linked to past exposure to asbestos and is often referred to as asbestos lung cancer. NHS Heroes Doctors Despite our best efforts to eradicate the use of asbestos, every year some 3,000 people in the US and 2,,000 in the UK develop this form of cancer.
Naturally, those with the highest risk of developing this cancer work in asbestos mining, construction, demolition and in the military.
Veterans who we exposed on navy ships and shipyards, on aircraft carriers, battleships, destroyers, submarines and others continue to pay the price decades after exposure. Even without coming in contact with asbestos for many years, your risk remains high if you’ve had past exposure.
In most cases, the symptoms of mesothelioma do not start to appear till around 40 years after the initial exposure and can take as long as 60 years to show.
There are three known types of Mesothelioma:
Pleural mesothelioma is the most common form of the disease, accounting for roughly 70% of cases, and occurs in the lining of the lung known as the pleura.
The pleura itself is made up of two parts – an inner layer (which lines the lungs) and an outer layer (which lines the chest). These two layers protect the lungs and support the breathing process by producing a lubricating fluid which allows the lungs to easily slide over each other as they expand and deflate with air.
When pleural mesothelioma develops and the symptoms start to show, the two layers enlarge and press against the lungs. Not only does this make breathing more difficult but it also causes chest pain and can lead to a buildup of lubricating fluid in between the two layers.
Peritoneal mesothelioma, which represents approximately 25% of all cases, affects the area of the mesothelium that lines the abdomen, which is called the peritoneum.
Like the pleura, the peritoneum has two parts – an inner layer (which lines the abdominal organs) and an outer layer (which lines the abdominal wall). These two layers protect the organs, hold them in place and produce lubricating fluid which allows them to easily slide over each other when you move.
When the cancer develops to the stage where symptoms start to show, the two layers start to enlarge and press against the abdominal organs. This leads to abdominal pain, a buildup of lubricating fluid in between the two layers and bowel problems.
Pericardial mesothelioma affects the pericardium, which lines the heart. It is believed to be caused by inhaled asbestos fibers which are absorbed into the bloodstream and become tangled in the lining of the heart, as blood is processed through it.
In addition, mesothelioma present in other parts of the body such as the pleura or peritoneum can also spread to the lining of the heart.
The symptoms are varied, the most common ones include:
- Back, side or chest pain (reported @ 60% of the time)
- Shortness of breath
- Difficulty swallowing, persistent coughing, coughing up blood and hoarseness
- Fever, fatigue, weight loss, muscle weakness, face and arm swelling
- Blood Clotting Disorders
- Bowel Obstruction
Since the symptoms of mesothelioma do not usually manifest until the cancer is in an advanced stage, treating it is very difficult, and the survival rates are low. However, many of the stories from mesothelioma survivors, credit natural treatments as the key factor in their success.
Not everyone wants to expose themselves to more toxins, such as those found in chemotherapy, however, and many mesothelioma patients have turned to alternative and homeopathic treatments and diets, with excellent results.
In the next article, I’ll be discussing many of these alternative/homeopathic (natural) treatments.
It is my hope that, careful research, mesothelioma patients will be able to make more informed choices as to the best way to fight this condition, and improve the quality of their lives.