Malignant Mesothelioma is caused by exposure to asbestos which eventually translates into a rare form of cancer affecting the lining of the internal organs known as “mesothelium.” It can be treated by means of a combined surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation.
Asbestos is a natural occurring mineral which is toxic. It can enter the body through inhalation or ingestion. Direct inhalation comes from exposure in a job site like mine, or shipyard. Secondary exposure can happen to spouses or children of the affected. Malignant Mesothelioma has a long period of latency, possibly after 30 to 50 years, from the time of inhalation to the onset of symptoms. It is often detected unintentionally through regular check-ups.
Types of Malignant Mesothelioma
- Malignant pleural mesothelioma: It accounts for 70% of the cases, it occurs in the lining of the lungs and chest cavity (pleural).
- Malignant peritoneal mesothelioma: Around 15 – 20% cases are diagnosed with lining on the abdominal cavity (peritoneal).
- Malignant pericardial mesothelioma: Occurring in 1% or lesser of the cases, it occurs in the lining of the heart (pericardial), and differs from the rest by existing in younger individuals.
Symptoms of Malignant Mesothelioma
As mentioned before, symptoms do not generally occur until the tumours that have been growing begin to press against the wall of the chest and abdominal cavity. Symptoms include:
- Dry cough or wheezing
- Pain the chest or abdomen
- Shortness of breath
- Complications in the respiratory
- Pleural effusions (fluid around the lungs)
- Fever or night sweats
- Muscle weakness
- Weight loss
- Bowel obstruction
- Difficulty swallowing
Diagnosis and tests
- CT Scan
- MRI Scan
- PET Scan
- Endoscopic ultrasound
- Blood tests
- Physical examination
Types of surgery for Malignant Mesothelioma
- Potentially curative surgery: This is an option if you are in good health and cancer tumors have not spread too far to be removed. This may cure you or help you live longer.
- Palliative surgery: This route is a good option when the cancer cells have increased and multiplied beyond where it started, and you are too ill to have an extensive surgery. It aims to relieve or prevent symptoms.
- Physical examination will be done to check general signs of health, signs of disease like lumps or anything unusual.
- A complete review of past and current medical situation, exposure to asbestos will be done
- Diagnostics tests will be done
- After diagnosis, tests will be done if cancer has spread to other parts of the body
- Your surgeon will decide whether you are suitable for potentially curative surgery or palliative surgery
- You may be asked to stop certain medications like blood thinners or herbal treatments before surgery
- You will need to quit smoking
- You will need to fast for 8 -12 hours before surgery
- You will also need to take medications prescribed by your doctor with small sips of water.
- You will be administered general anaesthesia, so you won’t feel any pain
- Surgery depends on the type of Mesothelioma, type of surgery, and stage of Mesothelioma
- In curative surgeries, the surgeon will make an incision into the area and remove a part or all the organs along with the tissues around it depending on the size of the tumor and occurrence of metastasis
- In case of Pleurodesis (palliative), a small incision is made on the chest
- By using a catheter or chest tube, fluid is drained from the space
- With chemicals or drugs, a scar is made in the space between the layers of pleura which then stops the build-up of fluid in the pleural cavity
- In case of fluid build-up in the abdominal and heart cavities, removal of fluid by means of Paracentesis and Pericardiocentesis may be performed respectively
- After removal of all visible cancerous cells, it is followed by chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy to kill any remaining cancer cells.
- You will experience some discomfort and pain. Medications to relieve pain will be given
- Some diagnostic tests will be repeated as a follow up to see how the treatment is working
- Depending on the tests, some treatment may be stopped, changed, or continued
- An intensive surgery could take two weeks of hospital stay and a few months for full recovery
- Regular follow-up may be done to check any recurrence, metastasis, or success
- Maintain a healthy lifestyle.
Risks and complications
As with any surgery, it is not without complications and risks. Possible complications that could arise are:
- Hair loss
- Damage to lungs
- Shortness of breath
- Loss of appetite
- Easy bruising and bleeding
- Mouth sores
Factors affecting the cost of Malignant Mesothelioma
The cost of treating Mesothelioma varies depending on the location of the affected area, stage of cancer, type of treatment, and overall health of the patient. Factors that influence the costs are:
- Location of the hospital
- Type of treatment
- Surgeons’ fees
- Duration of stay
- Diagnostic tests
- Medical care