Mesothelioma Asbestos Cancer Information

What is Mesothelioma?

Mesothelioma (Asbestos Cancer) is a type of cancer (a deadly tumor) involving mesothelial tissues or cells of usually lungs or stomach and abdominal organs.

The information on mesothelioma asbestos cancer or lung cancer given here is for general use only. You must always consult your Oncologist or Mesothelioma Doctor for any medical problem.

Mesothelioma or asbestos cancer is often caused by exposure to asbestos fibers and dust. The incidence of mesothelioma is increasing in developed countries due to widespread exposure of individuals to asbestos. The other factor may be occupational asbestos exposures, in which case mesothelioma may occur even after the exposures have been eliminated. There are 30-50% of patients without any history of exposure.

Note that every asbestos related lung cancer is not a mesothelioma. Mesothelioma is the most lethal of the lung cancers.

There is some evidence that provitamin A or beta-carotene may decrease the risk of mesothelioma [Muscat JE, Huncharek M, Division of Epidemiology, American Health Foundation, New York, NY, USA, Br J Cancer, May 1996]

Who are at Risk of developing Mesothelioma Cancer?

People who have received asbestos exposure (an exposure of as little as one or two months) even to very low doses are at risk of mesothelioma cancer and other asbestos related diseases. This is regardless of their age, sex and trade. Even people who wash clothes of asbestos exposed people are at risk, because asbestos can be carried on clothing. A person exposed to asbestos could develop mesothelioma after 50 years of exposure. The mesothelioma latency period is about 35 - 40 years. This means that a person exposed to asbestos today can have mesothelioma cancer after 35-40 years.

People in the following occupations have high risk of contracting asbestos disease:

Insulators, Boilermakers, Construction jobs in shipyards, Shipfitters, Steel Workers, Maintenance Workers, Pipe Fitters and Brake Mechanics. Friends and family of the workers in the above listed fields are also at risk. If you think that your family has been harmed because of a family member's occupation, then, consulting with a law firm may be your best bet for more information.

Prof. RT Gun of the Department of Community Medicine, University of Adelaide, South Australia [Med J Aust, Apr 17 1995] in a study of people not occupationally exposed to asbestos for the period 1980-1985 found that the incidence of mesothelioma in men was 5.9 per 1,000,000 person-years more than women. The reason for this difference for men and women is not available. The occurrence of mesothelioma in men between the age group of 60-70 is 10 times higher than the age group of 30-40.

The body mass index is unrelated to the risk of mesothelioma.

Mesothelioma Types

Mesothelioma may be benign and malignant. Malignant mesothelioma is a highly aggressive tumor. The 2 common types of mesothelioma are:

Pleural mesothelioma: It is the most common type of mesothelioma, which is also referred to as a lung cancer because it affects the pleura, the thin membrane between the lungs and the chest cavity. The diagnosis of pleural mesothelioma is not possible until its symptoms, such as breathlessness, are developed.

Peritoneal mesothelioma: This type of mesothelioma is less common than pleural mesotheliomas, but it is more invasive and aggressive, resulting in a shorter life expectancy. The peritoneal mesothelioma affects the peritoneum, the membrane that encloses the organs of the abdomen. Mesothelioma can also be of the stomach and other abdominal organs.

The survival time for a patient with diffuse malignant mesothelioma is from 4 to 24 months from the observance of the symptoms, however, some victims have survived for several years with proper care.

Diagnosis of Mesothelioma

Mesothelioma diagnosis is difficult. Researchers from Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital in Perth, Australia, have developed a test to detect mesothelioma that looks at the blood concentrations of proteins expressed by mesothelioma cells called soluble mesothelin-related proteins, or SMR. They conclude that the determination of SMR in serum could be a useful marker for diagnosis of mesothelioma. The SMR test could be used to detect the cancer several years earlier, thus saving lives.

The researchers at the Department of Pathology, University Hospital, Lund, Sweden have found that the quality of the biopsy specimens shows the possibility to arrive at a correct histopathologic diagnosis. They suggest tubulopapillary mesotheliomas be regarded as "low-grade mesotheliomas" and other types, including the epithelioid type of epithelial mesotheliomas, as "high-grade mesotheliomas." This should be taken into account when designing clinical trials. [Reference: Johansson L, Linden CJ, Department of Pathology, University Hospital, Lund, Sweden, Chest, Jan 1996.]

If you or someone you love is suffering from mesothelioma, you have the legal right to seek medical expenses, loss of income, and pain and suffering. You should consult a qualified attorney to advocate your rights in a mesothelioma lawsuit.

Mesothelioma Treatment Options

If you or someone you love has mesothelioma injury, you should consult a qualified attorney to advocate your rights in a mesothelioma lawsuit.

There are no immediate mesothelioma symptoms or signs. The symptoms of mesothelioma may appear in 30 - 50 years after exposure to asbestos. A person with pleural mesothelioma has symptoms of shortness of breath and pain in the chest due to an accumulation of fluid in the pleur.

A person with peritoneal mesothelioma has symptoms of abdominal pain and weight loss, blood clotting abnormalities, anemia and fever.

Please note that these symptoms may be due to other reasons.

Heavy wrinkling may be a sign of cancer risk.
How many wrinkles you have may be an indication of your lung cancer risk, according to a recent study (2006) by British researchers at The Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital that concluded that middle-aged smokers with heavily lined faces have a 5 times higher risk of lung disease than their unwrinkled peers. After age and the number of years someone had smoked were taken into account, heavy wrinkling was the next factor that seems to point to increased risk, they said.

Severe wrinkling also shows a lack of anti-ageing antioxidants, like vitamin C, which also help protect against disease. Medical experts are now recommending to look out for premature heavy wrinkling in addition to other symptoms of lung disease such as persistent smokers cough and breathlessness.

Mesothelioma Treatment

Malignant mesothelioma is a serious illness and is presently regarded as incurable. There is no standard treatment. In general, it is resistant to chemotherapy and radiotherapy and cure by surgery has not been successful.

Researchers are currently searching for effective treatment options and hope to find a mesothelioma cure. Recent research on mice by Dr Richard Lake at the University of Western Australia gives some hope that a cure could be found for mesothelioma in future. Dr Lake combined chemotherapy drug called coramsine (still under development) and immunotherapy on mice to stimulate the immune system. The mice not only recovered from mesotheliom but also rejected subsequent attempts to grow another tumour.

According to the National Cancer Institute, asbestos-exposed workers who quit smoking can reduce their risk of developing lung cancer by 50% within five years of quitting.

The chance of recovery for a patient with mesothelioma depends on size and location of the cancer, age of the patient and his response to the treatment.

Presently, the treatment options for mesotheliomas are:

  1. Radiation therapy: Mesotheliomas are only moderately responsive to radiation. The quality of life of the patient can be improved as the radiation can effectively reduce pain and shortness of breath. Survival in the patients is not significantly improved.
  2. Chemotherapy: The chemotherapy with doxorubicin (adriamycin) has shown response rates of approximately 20%. The radiation agents like cyclophosphamide (cytoxan), 5-fluorouracil and methotrexate have shown no better results. The trial with intrapleural infusion of cisplatinum is in the early stages experimentation. The response rate to single agent chemotherapy is low (less than 20%) with the highest response rate for doxorubicin, mitomycin and ifosfamide.
  3. Surgery: The surgical options including extrapleural pneumonectomy (removing the tumour by excising lun) and pleurectomy/decortication have been not successful so far. Radical surgery or extrapleural pleuropneumonectomy is a major surgical procedure aiming at removing the tumour by excising lung, ipsilateral parietal and mediastinal pleura, diaphragm and pericardium.
  4. Photodynamic therapy: An intravenous photosensitizer is given to the cancer cells, which are then activated by a specific wavelength of laser light to destroy the cancer cell. This option is in the early stages experimentation.

The government authorities throughout the world should make appropriate legislation to stop industrial and consumer use of asbestos. However, mesothelioma will be expected to occur up to 40 years even after such a legislation is made effective.

If you or someone you love is suffering from mesothelioma, you have the legal right to seek medical expenses, loss of income, and pain and suffering. You should consult a qualified attorney to advocate your rights in a mesothelioma lawsuit.


  1. What is malignant mesothelioma? American Cancer Society
  2. Mesothelioma Cancer and How it Affects You
  3. Opitz I. Management of malignant pleural mesothelioma -The European experience.

The content on this website is reviewed regularly and is updated when new information is made available. The information provided is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. You should always seek the advice of your Doctor.

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