Not all types of mesothelioma diagnoses are created equal. While a few types of the disease are the most common, a victim of this type of cancer can be diagnosed with one of four types, each named for the part of the body affected by the disease. Below is an overview of each type including information that will help you – the patient, or you – the caregiver – better understand the specifics of the disease.
Malignant Pleural Mesothelioma (MPM) is the most common form of the disease. It accounts for approximately 75 percent of all mesothelioma cases diagnosed in the U.S. each year, according to the American Cancer Society.1 This type attacks the pleura, which coats the lungs and includes the space in the chest that contains the lungs. Symptoms of pleural mesothelioma, which often do not surface until the disease has progressed, can be mistaken for a variety of less serious illnesses, like a cold or bronchitis or perhaps even heart problems.
These symptoms include:
• Chest pain
• Shortness of breath
• Difficulty swallowing
• Unexplained weight loss
• Excessive sweating
Anyone who worked regularly with asbestos in years past should consult a doctor immediately if any of these symptoms arise without explanation. It is not unusual for there to be a delay in diagnosis of MPM while less serious reasons for the symptoms are researched. It is ALWAYS important to tell your doctor about your past exposure when such symptoms arise. The earlier the diagnosis, the more options for treatment.
Peritoneal Mesothelioma affects the peritoneum, the lining of the abdomen. It accounts for about 20 percent of the 3,000 or so cases of mesothelioma diagnosed each year in the U.S. This type of the disease tends to spread quite quickly through the rest of the body; hence, prognosis for someone with peritoneal mesothelioma is not good. Symptoms of the disease include: • Swelling or fluid in the abdomen • Abdominal pain • Nausea and/or vomiting • Unexplained weight loss • Constipation It is generally suggested that peritoneal mesothelioma be treated with some form of chemotherapy, though the statistics for success are not high.
Pericardial Mesothelioma, which develops in the lining around the heart, is a much rarer type of the disease, accounting for only about one percent of all annually-diagnosed U.S. cases.¹ It carries with it a very high mortality rate, with victims surviving only a short time after diagnosis. Because the disease indirectly involves the heart, traditional cancer treatments are usually not even considered.
Patients are provided with palliative care to ease the discomfort of symptoms, which include:
• Chest pain
• Irregular heartbeat
• Breathing difficulty
• Night sweats
The rarest of all forms of the disease, Testicular Mesothelioma develops in the lining of the testicles, known as the tunica vaginalis. Patients with this disease will probably notice swelling of the scrotum and lumps in the area of the testicles. (The rarity of the disease has made it difficult to compile a complete symptom list.) Studies note that fewer than 100 cases have been diagnosed thus far.
If you or a loved one are experiencing any symptoms that might be connected to past asbestos exposure, obtain a doctor’s appointment immediately to begin any testing that will hopefully rule out the disease. If a mesothelioma diagnosis is confirmed, be sure to explore all your medical and legal options.