Malignant Mesothelioma

μεσοθηλίωμαWhat is malignant mesothelioma?

Malignant mesothelioma is a rare form of cancer of the thin membrane that surrounds the lungs, called pleura. This is a very serious condition, which worsens over time. Individuals suffering from malignant mesothelioma are usually older than 50 years. Almost always found in their medical histoyry is exposure to asbestos.

What are the symptoms of malignant mesothelioma?

The main symptoms include the following:

  • Shortness of breath – the patient may feel that the air he breathes is not enough or he may feel that breathing is very hard.
  • Chest pain

If someone has the above symptoms, it does not mean that he suffers from malignant mesothelioma. Many common conditions can cause breathlessness and chest pain. Most of them are much more frequent than malignant mesothelioma.

Should you visit your doctor?

Yes. If you have difficulty breathing or chest pain, you may go directly to the hospital. These symptoms may mean that your health condition is serious.

Do you need to have any  tests?

Yes. Your doctor will examine you and ask you some questions about your history. You may undergo the following additional tests:

  • Chest X-ray and other imaging tests – These can be computed tomography, PET scan, or MRI. All these tests create pictures of internal organs, especially of lungs and pleura.
  • Breathing tests – During these tests, the patient breathes through a special tube. So, the lung function is assessed by a computer.
  • Bronchoscopy – The doctor uses a thin tube (the bronchoscope) through which he can observe your airways.
  • Biopsy – Your doctor takes a small sample from the pleura or from the space between your lungs. Then the sample is examined under the microscope.

What is the treatment for malignant mesothelioma?

Doctors can not always fully heal a patient suffering from malignant mesothelioma. However, they may provide symptomatic – palliative treatment, so that pain gets milder and breathing becomes easier. These treatments include:

  • Surgery – Many patients with malignant mesothelioma are not in good shape to withstand a surgery, but some are. During surgery, the doctor may remove part or all of the tissue bearing cancer, may remove the fluid that has probably gathered around the lungs and may put powder in the space around the lungs to prevent further development of fluid in the future .
  • Radiation therapy – Radiation kills cancer cells
  • Chemotherapy – Chemotherapy is a great group of drugs that kill cancer cells.

Some people will receive combination therapy. For example, they may have chemotherapy or radiation therapy after a surgery. The best option is different for each patient depending on age, other symptoms and overall health status. Your doctor will advise you on the various options always bearing in mind your own desires.

How is life of an individual after been diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma?

This depends on his age, overall health status and other factors. The therapy has positive effects for some patients while on others may not be beneficial. When the patient is informed about his therapeutic options, he can can take logical decisions about treatment. Every time your doctor suggests a treatment option, you can ask the following:

  1. What are the benefits of each treatment?  Is it possible to prolong survival? How can therapy help decrease the symptoms?
  2. What negative effects could emerge following the treatment? What are the possible side effects?
  3. Are there other options instead of the specific treatment?
  4. What can happen if one decides not to receive any treatment at all?