Mesothelioma and You Image

What is mesothelioma? Mesothelioma is a rare type of cancer affecting the tissues lining the internal organs. Mesothelioma is mainly caused by exposure to asbestos, a fiber once used for insulation and other building applications. Prolonged exposure and accidental inhalation or ingestion of asbestos fibers can lead to mesothelioma.

How Does Mesothelioma Affect the Body?

Several types of mesothelioma can affect different areas of the body, including the lungs and the abdominal organs. Mesothelioma symptoms vary, and are related to the body area affected. If you have suspicious symptoms that may be related to mesothelioma, X rays and other diagnostic imaging tests can help to confirm a mesothelioma diagnosis. A history of past asbestos exposure also helps your doctor to diagnose mesothelioma, as this is the only proven cause of the disease.

Mesothelioma stages are assigned numbers based on the disease’s level of advancement. Lower stages are less serious and more contained within one area of the body, while higher stages are more advanced and may have spread to other tissues in the body. Some experience complications of mesothelioma, including:

  • Difficulty breathing or swallowing
  • Heart failure
  • Pleural effusion (a buildup of fluid in the chest cavity).

Risk Factors and Causes of Mesothelioma

Certain populations are at a higher risk for developing mesothelioma. Some occupations are linked to hazards due to asbestos exposure. People who work in construction on old buildings may be exposed to old asbestos insulation. Asbestos exposure is also common in military settings, so veterans are also at a higher risk of developing mesothelioma than the general population.

Because on-the-job asbestos exposure has been linked to mesothelioma, you may be entitled to some form of compensation if you are diagnosed with mesothelioma. If you’ve been diagnosed with mesothelioma due to asbestos exposure, mesothelioma lawyer representation may help you if seek a settlement from your employer.

Though asbestos exposure is the widely accepted cause of mesothelioma, other factors may increase risk. Smoking increases the risk for developing mesothelioma in the lungs. Certain viruses and family history may also affect your risk for developing mesothelioma.

Treatment for Mesothelioma

Mesothelioma treatment depends on a combination of factors, including your overall health and the severity of the disease. As with other forms of cancer, treatments can include:

  • Chemotherapy
  • Radiation
  • Surgery.

New treatments are also being developed that target mesothelioma specifically. Prognosis is better for individuals who have been diagnosed early, as advanced stages of mesothelioma are difficult to treat.

The articles in this topic guide will provide you with detailed information about mesothelioma, including its causes, symptoms, diagnosis and other related information.


Mayo Clinic Staff. (2008). Mesothelioma: Complications. Retrieved December 21, 2009, from the Mayo Clinic Web site:

Mayo Clinic Staff. (2008). Mesothelioma: Risk factors. Retrieved December 21, 2009, from the Mayo Clinic Web site:

Med Line Plus Staff. (2008). Pleural effusion. Retrieved December 21, 2009, from the Med Line Plus Web site: Staff. (2009). Mesothelioma: What is it? Retrieved December 21, 2009, from the Web site: