Mesothelioma refers to a set of cancers that occur within the thin lining that encompasses the body’s internal organs. Nearly all of the body’s organs within the chest or abdominal cavity are lined by a thin layer of cells known as the mesothelium. These thin shells lubricate the organs so that movement among the body structure in unhindered. The natural motions of the heart and lung are contraction and expansion, which are eased by the lubrication provided by the mesothelium. Because this cancer occurs within the proximity of so many vital organs it is generally considered very serious.
Among mesothelioma there are three varieties, named with respect to the specific area they affect. The most common form of the disease is malignant pleural mesothelioma, which affects lining of the lungs. The second-most common incidence is cases or malignant peritoneal mesothelioma, which affect the peritoneal lining of the abdominal cavity. The rarest incidence of the disease is malignant pericardial mesothelioma, that which affects the lining of the heart and central circulatory mechanisms.
Mesothelioma however, is not generally considered to be a naturally occurring cancer. The main cause for mesothelioma is exposure to asbestos. In malignant pleural, pericardial, and peritoneal mesothelioma cases, there is almost always some history of asbestos exposure. While anomalies have been known to arise among those whose have no asbestos exposure history, it is certainly considered the common denominator in terms of cause and effect. Therefore, the only way to practically avoid mesothelioma is the avoidance of asbestos fibers.
Asbestos fibers will enter the body either by inhalation or ingestion. As pleural mesotheliomas are the most common, generally they are caused by inhaled fibers. Pericardial and peritoneal mesotheliomas are caused by transfer within the body of asbestos fibers through the blood stream or otherwise. There is no cure for mesothelioma, which is a rare but aggressive tumor and prognoses are typically poor. Mesothelioma treatment will usually be through surgical resection, chemotherapy, or radiation therapy. In most cases, treatment cannot realistically be deemed curative and is more likely administered in order to make the patient as comfortable as possible.