- A natural mineral mined for its durable, fire-resistant properties. There are six types, and most can be found in soil and rock. At the height of its use, asbestos was mined around the globe and used in a variety of commercial and industrial applications. It is a known human carcinogen or cancer-causing substance.
- A chronic lung disease caused by inhaling or ingesting asbestos fibers. It is not cancer but can lead to scarring of the mesothelium — the tissue that lines the lungs, stomach, and heart. The most common symptoms associated with asbestosis are a persistent cough and shortness of breath.
- Adjuvant Therapy
- An additional — or ‘add-on’ — therapy given after the original mesothelioma treatment to improve results, prevent recurrence, and relieve pain or other symptoms. It’s designed to make the main treatment more effective and is helpful for patients diagnosed in the early stages of the disease. Adjuvant therapy for mesothelioma often includes radiation and/or chemotherapy.
- Specialized immune proteins the body produces in response to antigens (foreign invaders or toxins). Antibodies remain in a patient’s system, ready to attack if the antigen ever reappears.
- A medical procedure used to examine cells or pieces of tissue to determine the presence or scope of a disease. Doctors who suspect asbestos cancer or mesothelioma will biopsy a patient’s cells using a needle, a small camera or even surgery. A biopsy is the only definitive way to diagnose mesothelioma.
- A cancer-causing substance. In this case, asbestos — a carcinogenic mineral that causes mesothelioma.
- A type of cancer treatment which utilizes a combination of specific drugs to prevent cancerous cells from dividing and spreading to other parts of the body. Mesothelioma patients typically receive pemetrexed and cisplatin. These drugs are administered in different ways — orally, intravenously, or after surgery — depending on the type of mesothelioma the patient is fighting.
- Curative Care
- Mesothelioma treatments designed to remove as many tumors or affected cells as possible and significantly extend a patient’s life. For mesothelioma patients, this process often includes surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation.
- The identification of a health-related condition or disease based on specific symptoms. In most cases, a doctor or specialist performs a physical examination and a series of tests.
- Short for Hyperthermic Intraperitoneal Chemotherapy, HIPEC is usually reserved for patients with peritoneal mesothelioma who are undergoing cytoreductive surgery. After removing all visible tumors, a surgeon delivers heated chemotherapy drugs directly to the abdomen, with the goal of destroying any microscopic cells that remain. Unlike systemic chemotherapy treatments, which circulate throughout the body, this concentrated dose can reduce side effects and is thought to improve the body’s absorption of the drugs.
- The study of cells, tissues, and organ structures under a microscope. Histology is often called “microscopic anatomy” and is a way to determine whether certain cancer cells will multiply or enlarge. A medical professional will study the histology of a mesothelioma tumor to determine the best course of treatment.
- Immunotherapy or Immune Therapy
- An emerging treatment for mesothelioma patients that stimulates and strengthens the immune system, helping it to recognize and fight the spread of cancerous cells. Immunotherapy has shown promising results in research studies.
- Latency Period
- In mesothelioma, the years between asbestos exposure and a cancer diagnosis. It can take decades for the asbestos fibers to create scar tissue in the mesothelium and form cancerous tumors. The average latency period for mesothelioma is between 20–50 years.
- Life Expectancy
- How long a patient can expect to survive after a cancer diagnosis.
A rare and malignant cancer of the mesothelium — a thin layer of tissue that lines the lungs, heart, and chest and abdominal cavities. The only definitive cause of mesothelioma is exposure to asbestos. When asbestos is inhaled or ingested, its microscopic fibers cause inflammation and irritation to the mesothelium. This creates scar tissue, which can later damage DNA and develop into cancerous tumors. There are three primary types of mesothelioma.
- This form of mesothelioma affects the pleura, or lining of the lungs and chest cavity. It’s the most common form of mesothelioma, comprising 70–90 percent of all diagnoses.
- This type of mesothelioma affects the lining of the stomach or abdominal cavity, known as the peritoneum.
- The rarest form of mesothelioma. Tumors develop in the pericardium — the protective tissue surrounding the heart.
- Mesothelioma Cell Types
There are two types of mesothelioma cells, epithelioid and sarcomatoid. Tumors may also be biphasic, which is a combination of the two.
- Around 60 percent of all mesothelioma cases are diagnosed as epithelioid. This cell type has a more favorable prognosis than sarcomatoid and may respond better to treatment.
- These cells tend to metastasize (spread) more quickly. This cell type accounts for about 25 percent of mesothelioma cases.
- A combination of both epithelioid and sarcomatoid cells. A biphasic diagnosis means at least 10 percent of each cell pattern is present in the tumor. Approximately 15 percent of mesothelioma diagnoses are biphasic.
- A thin layer of cells and tissue that lines the chest cavity (pleura), abdominal cavity (peritoneum), and heart sac (pericardium). This membrane protects and lubricates the internal organs of these areas of the body.
- The spread of cancerous cells from the original tumor site to another part of the body. Metastasis indicates the disease is progressing.
- Short for “Magnetic Resonance Imaging,” this device utilizes a large magnet and radio waves to produce a 3-D image. Most MRIs are tube-shaped, and patients lie down on a flat table in the center, allowing the medical staff to slide them in and out of the machine. The resulting image is a cross section of the body’s internal organs.
- Neoadjuvant Therapy
- A procedure or medication administered before the main treatment to increase the chances of a good outcome. For example, a mesothelioma patient may undergo a few courses of radiation to shrink a tumor before having surgery to remove it.
- Occupational Exposure
- Asbestos is a known carcinogen, but people working in certain industries may still inhale or ingest asbestos fibers or dust while on the job. In most cases, occupational exposure is a form of corporate negligence, and the patient may be entitled to some form of compensation.
- A doctor specifically trained in diagnosing and treating cancer. An oncologist explains the nature of the disease, offers different treatments, delivers care and assists with symptom and pain management.
- Palliative Care
- Doctors offer this type of care to provide relief from mesothelioma symptoms and improve quality of life. Palliative care is usually directed towards patients who are diagnosed in the later stages of the disease, when surgery or other treatments may not be an option.
- Pleural Effusion
- A condition where fluid collects between the layers of the pleura. In mesothelioma patients, it may be due to inflammation from a growing tumor and lead to shortness of breath or wheezing.
- Predicting the expected outcome of a specific disease. The survival rate or life expectancy of a patient often depends on how far the cancer has progressed. People diagnosed with stage 1 mesothelioma will generally have a better prognosis than a patient diagnosed at stage 4, although doctors will also take into account other factors, such as the type of mesothelioma, cell type, patient demographics and overall patient health.
- A type of cancer treatment that utilizes targeted doses of high-energy particle beams or waves to shrink tumors and eradicate cancer cells.
- Stages of Mesothelioma
A mesothelioma diagnosis is divided into four stages. Oncologists use this staging process to determine how far cancer cells have metastasized — or spread — and to identify the best treatment options.
- Stage 1
- Localized to one side of the body, has not spread, few to no symptoms and the best prognosis.
- Stage 2
- Localized to one side of the body, some lymph nodes and tissues are affected, mild symptoms and fair prognosis.
- Stage 3
- Localized to one side of the body, has spread to the lymph system and possibly to other organs, worsening symptoms and a poor prognosis.
- Stage 4
- Cancer on both sides of the body, has spread to lymph nodes and other organs, strong and obvious symptoms, worst prognosis.
- Statute of Limitations
- The length of time a party has to initiate legal proceedings. In terms of mesothelioma, it varies by state and time of diagnosis. Talk to a qualified mesothelioma attorney to learn more.
- Survival Rate
- The length of time the average patient lives after being diagnosed with a disease. Cancer survival rates are usually calculated within a five-year time span.
Mesothelioma patients diagnosed at stages 1 or 2 may not have any symptoms at all or may notice changes that are consistent with other common illnesses, like the flu. Those with a more advanced form of asbestos cancer, at stages 3 and 4, will have more symptoms.
- Pleural Mesothelioma Symptoms
- Pain in the chest and lower back, shortness of breath, pleural effusion (excessive fluid in the lungs), constant cough, fatigue, and unexplained weight loss.
- Peritoneal Mesothelioma Symptoms
- Stomach pain, fluid in the abdomen, constant nausea and vomiting, and unexplained weight loss.
- Pericardial Mesothelioma Symptoms
- Chest pain, arrhythmia, fluid buildup around the heart, shortness of breath, persistent cough, fatigue.
- An overgrowth of cells in one part of the body, often referred to as a ‘mass.’ A tumor can be benign (non-cancerous) or malignant (cancerous).
- Veteran's Benefits
- A special set of government benefits administered through the Department of Veterans Affairs that provide compensation for medical bills, disability claims, and dependents. The U.S. military used asbestos for insulation and as a flame retardant in ships, shipyards and on military bases until the late 1970s, and veterans from all five branches may have been exposed to this carcinogen and developed mesothelioma as a result. For more information on filing a VA claim, talk to a qualified mesothelioma attorney.
- Workers' Compensation
- A mandatory insurance policy for businesses. It provides compensation for employees who are hurt or become ill as a result of conditions on the job. Workers’ comp claims help recover lost wages and medical expenses. Each state handles workers’ comp programs differently, so it’s important to talk to a qualified mesothelioma attorney if you believe you were exposed to asbestos on the job.
- Invisible electromagnetic waves that pass through solid objects to create a digital image. This type of high-energy radiation allows doctors to examine a patient’s bones and internal organs for cancerous tumors or other signs of disease.