Mesothelioma

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At Banner MD Anderson Cancer Center, patients with mesothelioma have a multidisciplinary team dedicated to providing compassionate, integrative, effective care. Mesothelioma is difficult to treat, and we’re constantly trying to improve treatment approaches. We use the latest research and most advanced techniques to deliver treatment that’s hard on cancer, but gentle on you. Our goal is to treat the whole person – not just the cancer. That’s why we build individual treatment plans for every patient’s specific needs, which include supportive services covering medical, physical, and emotional care.

What Is Mesothelioma?

Mesothelioma cancer starts in the mesothelial cells, which line the inside of your chest, abdomen and heart. These cells lubricate your organs, to provide a slippery, non-adhesive and protective surface, making it easier for your lungs to inflate or heart to pump. 

There are four main types of mesothelioma:

  • Pleural mesotheliomas: Chest (most common)
  • Peritoneal mesotheliomas: Abdomen (less common)
  • Pericardial mesotheliomas: Covering around the heart (rare)
  • Mesotheliomas of the tunica vaginalis: Covering around the testicles (rare)

While rare in the United States, malignant mesothelioma is an aggressive cancer with no known cure.

According to the American Cancer Society, about 80% of malignant mesothelioma cancer may be associated with exposure to asbestos. Asbestos is a naturally occurring fibrous mineral composed of tiny, needle-like fibers. When asbestos fibers are inhaled the inner lining of the lungs and other organs become irritated causing inflammation and scaring. Symptoms of mesothelioma may not develop for decades after asbestos exposure, when tumors have grown and spread (metastatic mesothelioma).

What Is Asbestos?

Asbestos is a natural material that was used in many products such as building materials and automotive parts. In the United States, manufacturers started phasing out asbestos products in the 1980s; however, some are still used today. There are several federal laws governing the use of asbestos.

Who Gets Mesothelioma?

Mesothelioma is much more common in older adults, with the average age at the time of diagnosis at 72 years of age. Men are more than four times more likely than women to be diagnosed with mesothelioma due to jobs associated with asbestos exposure. Common occupations with a history of asbestos exposure include: Construction, firefighting, shipbuilding, manufacturing, chemical refining, power generation and the military.

A rare form of mesothelioma called benign multicystic peritoneal mesothelioma (BMPM) originates in the peritoneum of the abdominal cavity and usually affects women of child-bearing age.  BMPM is extremely uncommon in men.

Learn More About Mesothelioma

What Causes Mesothelioma?

Most mesotheliomas are related to exposure to asbestos. Mesothelioma has also been linked to radiation treatment for other cancers. In a small number of cases, mesothelioma is inherited. The best way to prevent mesothelioma is to avoid asbestos.

Learn more about mesothelioma causes, risk factors and prevention.

What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Mesothelioma?

Early symptoms of mesothelioma are similar to those for other issues so many people ignore them or believe they are the result of other minor illnesses.  Some of the general symptoms for mesothelioma are loss of appetite, weight loss, fatigue, fever, extreme sweating or blood clots.

Learn more about mesothelioma signs, symptoms and types.

How Is Mesothelioma Diagnosed?

Doctors perform imaging tests and tissue or fluid biopsies to diagnose mesothelioma.

Learn more about mesothelioma tests, diagnosis, prognosis and stages.

How Is Mesothelioma Treated?

Mesothelioma is difficult to treat. Often, the goal of treatment for mesothelioma is to reduce the size of the tumor, prevent the cancer from spreading and relieve symptoms of the disease. 

Learn more about mesothelioma treatment, side effects and support.