Mesothelioma Mesothelial Cells

Mesothelioma is a cancer of the tissues covering the internal organs, known as the mesothelium. Asbestos exposure is the accepted cause of mesothelioma. Mesothelioma can manifest itself with several different cell types, and can affect multiple areas of the body, causing different symptoms of mesothelioma.

Asbestos Particles and Mesothelioma

When asbestos is applied or mixed, or when existing asbestos is disturbed, particles of the material can become airborne. Unprotected individuals can then inhale or ingest these particles, which can be embedded in the lungs or stomach.

Mesothelioma affects the mesothelium, or the tissue covering the internal organs. The mesothelium also covers the walls of the cavities containing these organs (such as the interior surface of the chest wall). When asbestos becomes embedded in the tissue, the mesothelial cells can be subject to mutations, leading to the growth of abnormal cancerous cells. A proliferation of these cells can form a cancerous tumor.

Symptoms of mesothelioma depend on the type of mesothelioma and the body area affected by asbestos:

  • Pericardial mesothelioma affects the tissue surrounding the heart, with symptoms including irregular heartbeat and chest pains.
  • Peritoneal mesothelioma affects the abdominal organs, and may cause abdominal pain and changes in digestive habits.
  • Pleural mesothelioma, the most common type, affects the lungs. It Symptoms may include chest pain and difficulty breathing.

Types of Mesothelial Cells

Mesothelioma can be classified in several ways. As well as being grouped according to which organs in the body are affected, mesothelioma can be classified according to the types of mesothelioma cells present. These cell types are:

  • Epithelioid: the most common and most easily treatable mesothelioma cell type
  • Mixed/biphasic: a combination of epithelioid and sarcomatoid mesothelioma cancer cells
  • Sarcomatoid: a less common type of mesothelioma cells, sarcomatoid mesothelioma is more aggressive and resistant to treatment.

Complications of Mesothelioma

The mesothelium is responsible for producing a fluid that lubricates the internal organs. Mesothelioma can cause a buildup of this fluid, causing pressure on the internal organs. This pressure can lead to pain in the affected area. When this condition affects the lungs, it is known as pleural effusion. Pleural fluid builds up in the space between the chest wall and the lungs, known as the pleural space.

Pleural Mesothelioma and Pleural Effusion

When this fluid is not re-absorbed by the body, it can put pressure on the lungs, causing chest pain and difficulty breathing. Fluid can also build up in the abdomen in the case of peritoneal mesothelioma, leading to abdominal pain. Mesothelioma often goes undiagnosed for decades following asbestos exposure. Therefore, the body’s organs are often seriously damaged by the time mesothelioma is diagnosed, and the disease can be difficult to treat.

Resources

Medline Plus Staff. (n.d.). Pleural effusion. Retrieved December 27, 2009, from the Medline Plus Web site: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/000086.htm.

Mesolink.org Staff. (n.d.). The different types of mesothelioma. Retrieved December 27, 2009, from the Mesolink.org Web site: http://www.mesolink.org/resources/types-of-mesothelioma.html.

Mesothelioma Web Staff. (n.d.). Mesothelioma cell types. Retrieved December 27, 2009, from the Mesothelioma Web Web site: http://www.mesotheliomaweb.org/mesotheliomacelltypes.htm.

National Lung Health Education Program Staff. (n.d.). Pleural effusion. Retrieved December 27, 2009, from the National Lung Health Education Program Web site: http://www.nlhep.org/books/pul_Pre/pleural-effusion.html.