Most people who develop mesothelioma have worked on jobs where they inhaled asbestos particles. However, they may have been been exposed to asbestos dust and fibre in other ways. This could include working with asbestos or by home renovation using asbestos cement products or even by washing the clothes of a family member who worked with asbestos. The resulting disease is rare form of cancer in which malignant (cancerous) cells are found in the mesothelium, a protective sac that covers most of the body’s internal organs.
Mesothelioma occurs more often in men than in women and risk increases with age, but this disease can appear in either men or women at any age. About 2,000 new cases of mesothelioma are diagnosed in the United States each year. Although reported incidence rates have increased in the past 20 years, mesothelioma is still a relatively rare cancer.
There are various procedures used for the treatment of mesothelioma. The type of treatment depends on the location of the cancer, the stage of the disease, and the patient’s age and general health.
A common treatment of the disease is by means of surgery by the removal of part of the lining of the chest or abdomen and some of the tissue around it. For cancer of the pleura, a lung may be removed in an operation called a pneumonectomy. Sometimes part of the diaphragm, the muscle below the lungs that helps with breathing, is also removed.
Another method is Radiation therapy, also called radiotherapy. This involves the use of high-energy rays to kill cancer cells and shrink tumors. Radiation therapy affects the cancer cells only in the treated area. The radiation may come from a machine or from putting materials that produce radiation through thin plastic tubes into the area where the cancer cells are found .
Anticancer drugs can be used to kill cancer cells throughout the body. This is known as chemotherapy and involves the administration of the drugs by injection into a vein (intravenous, or IV). Currently, doctors are also studying the effectiveness of putting chemotherapy directly into the chest or abdomen.
Because mesothelioma is very hard to control, the U.S. National Cancer Institute (NCI) is sponsoring clinical trials that are designed to find new treatments and better ways to use current treatments.