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A rare type of cancer in which malignant cells are found in the lining of the chest or abdomen. Exposure to airborne asbestos particles increases one's risk of developing malignant mesothelioma.
Malignant mesothelioma is a disease in which malignant (cancer) cells are found in the pleura (the thin layer of tissue that lines the chest cavity and covers the lungs) or the peritoneum (the thin layer of tissue that lines the abdomen and covers most of the organs in the abdomen). This summary is about malignant mesothelioma of the pleura.
Anatomy of the respiratory system, showing the trachea and both lungs and their lobes and airways. Lymph nodes and the diaphragm are also shown. Oxygen is inhaled into the lungs and passes through the thin membranes of the alveoli and into the bloodstream (see inset).
Anything that increases your chance of getting a disease is called a risk factor. Having a risk factor does not mean that you will get cancer; not having risk factors doesn’t mean that you will not get cancer. Talk to your doctor if you think you may be at risk.
Many people with malignant mesothelioma have worked or lived in places where they inhaled or swallowed asbestos. After being exposed to asbestos, it usually takes a long time for malignant mesothelioma to form. Other risk factors for malignant mesothelioma include the following:
Sometimes the cancer causes fluid to collect around the lung or in the abdomen. These symptoms may be caused by the fluid or malignant mesothelioma. Other conditions may cause the same symptoms. Check with your doctor if you have any of the following problems:
Sometimes it is hard to tell the difference between malignant mesothelioma and lung cancer. The following tests and procedures may be used:
X-ray of the chest. X-rays are used to take pictures of organs and bones of the chest. X-rays pass through the patient onto film.
Procedures used to collect the cells or tissues include the following:
Fine-Needle Aspiration Biopsy of the Lung. The patient lies on a table that slides through the computed tomography (CT) machine, which takes x-ray pictures of the inside of the body. The x-ray pictures help the doctor see where the abnormal tissue is in the lung. A biopsy needle is inserted through the chest wall and into the area of abnormal lung tissue. A small piece of tissue is removed through the needle and checked under the microscope for signs of cancer.
The prognosis (chance of recovery) and treatment options depend on the following:
For more information on Malignant Mesothelioma click here
This link is to the National Cancer Institute (NCI) cancer website in the United States. There may be references to drugs and clinical trials that are not available here in Australia.
Page last updated: 30/04/2020