The mesothelium is a membranous substance that covers most of the body’s organs. When cells displaying uncontrolled growth, invasion, and/or metastasis arise in the mesothelium, a cancer may develop.
These cells, having undergone an anomalous transformation that causes them to proliferate abnormally, form a structure called a neoplasm. If this neoplasm destroys adjacent tissues, and/or spreads to other areas of the body, a cancer is formed.
Cancer of the mesothelium, or mesothelioma, is a rare disease that is almost always the aftereffect of asbestos exposure. The disease commonly arises from the pleura (see Pleural Mesothelioma), or the outer lining of the lungs. Mesothelioma can also affect the lining of the abdominal cavity (peritoneum), the sac the surround the heart (pericardium), the heart itself, and the membranous substance that covers the testes (tunica vaginalis).
- Asbestos Exposure: Direct exposure to asbestos fibers, either at work or at home, may lead to the onset of mesothelioma.
- Tobacco Use: Smokers who are also exposed to asbestos are at an especially high risk of developing the disease.
- Living with Someone who is Regularly exposed to Asbestos: Asbestos fibers attach themselves to clothing and the skin. If you live with someone that works around asbestos, they may be introducing the harmful substance into your home, elevating your risk of developing the disease, as well as their own.
- Radiation Exposure: Research suggests that mesothelioma may be related to the radioactive substance thorium dioxide. This harmful substance was used alongside x-rays to diagnose certain disorders from the 1920s to the 1950s.
- Family History of Mesothelioma: If you have a parent or sibling with mesothelioma, you are more likely to develop the disease yourself.
- Simian Virus (SV40): SV40 is a virus first discovered in monkeys. Unfortunately, from 1955 to 1963 millions of people were exposed to the virus in the form of polio vaccinations, which were developed with monkey cells. More research is needed to confirm a correlation between SV40 and the onset of mesothelioma.
The prognosis for mesothelioma patients is generally poor. Most patients survive for less than a year after the disease’s onset. It should be noted that long-term survivalists have been reported. In fact there are several cases in which the patient survived more than 10 years after the onset of mesothelioma.
- Follow Safety Regulations: If you work around asbestos, take heed to all of your employer’s safety instructions. This may include wearing a mask and/or protective clothing.
- Ask About the Presence of Asbestos: Most mesothelioma patients were exposed to asbestos in their workplace. Always ask your employer about the presence of asbestos in your workplace.
- Take Precautions in Your Home: Many old homes and buildings contain asbestos. First, consult an asbestos expert to detect the material in you home. If the expert recommends the removal of the material, hire a qualified company or individual to remove the asbestos. It is generally more dangerous to remove the asbestos than to leave it intact.