Malignant mesothelioma is a disease in which malignant (cancer) cells form in the thin layer of tissue that covers the lung, chest wall, or abdomen. It may also form in the heart or testicles, but this is rare.
The type of malignant mesothelioma depends on the cell in which it began. The most common type of malignant mesothelioma is epithelial mesothelioma, which forms in the cells that line organs. The other types begin in spindle-shaped cells called sarcomatoid cells or are a mixture of both cell types. Epithelial mesothelioma may grow more slowly and have a better prognosis than other types.
The major cause of malignant mesothelioma is being exposed to asbestos over a period of time. This includes people who were exposed to asbestos in the workplace and their family members.
Malignant mesothelioma is a rare but serious type of cancer. Most people who get it have worked on jobs where they inhaled asbestos particles. After being exposed to asbestos, it usually takes a long time for the disease to form.
After a person is exposed to asbestos, it usually takes at least 20 years for malignant mesothelioma to form.
The tissue that lines your lungs, stomach, heart, and other organs is called mesothelium. Mesothelioma is a tumor of that tissue. It usually starts in the lungs, but can also start in the abdomen or other organs. It can be benign (not cancer) or malignant (cancer.)
- Trouble breathing
- Pain under the rib cage
- Pain, swelling, or lumps in the abdomen
- Weight loss for no known reason
Sometimes it is hard to tell the difference between malignant mesothelioma and lung cancer. Your doctor uses imaging tests and a biopsy to make the diagnosis. Malignant mesothelioma is often found when it is advanced. This makes it harder to treat. Treatment may include surgery, radiation, and/or chemotherapy.