Malignant mesothelioma is a rare form of cancer that affects the thin cell wall lining of the body’s internal organs and structures. This lining is known as the mesothelium.
It is of three varieties:
Pleural Mesothelioma (covering of the lungs)
Peritoneal Mesothelioma (covering of abdomen)
Pericardial Mesothelioma ( covering of heart)
Asbestos exposure is a known risk factor for development of malignant mesothelioma. Asbestos is a natural, yet toxic, mineral that was frequently used across a wide variety of industries. Microscopic asbestos fibers enter the body via the lungs or by means of ingestion. Once inside the human body, the durable asbestos fibers are unable to be broken down or expelled, resulting in a harmful inflammation and scarring of the mesothelium. This scarring lays the groundwork for malignant mesothelioma.
No other genetic, dietary or geographic factors or variation have been reported.
Signs and Symptoms:
Trouble breathing, pain under the rib cage, distension of abdomen due to ascitis, lumps in the abdomen, unexplained weight loss. The symptoms depend on the extent of involvement. Nowadays, a common mode of diagnosis is incidental finding on laparoscopy for infertility or other procedures.
How is it diagnosed?
Imaging Scan: CT Scan, MRI, PET CT usually picks up the disease.
Biopsy: Cytology cannot diagnose a mesothelioma. A biopsy is essential and the goal standard for the diagnosis of mesothelioma. A staging laparoscopy is ideal since it helps get adequate biopsy sample and assess the extent of peritoneal disease.
Blood Tests: Tumor marker levels like Ca 125, Ca 19-9 and CEA are advisable but not diagnostic.