What is Mesothelioma?

Mesothelioma is a rare, aggressive form of cancer that is typically caused by asbestos exposure. The dangers of this cancer are great, and the fact that it can take decades to develop leaves many people with their health hanging in the balance. Fortunately, a little information can go a long way. Read on to learn more about this disease, including its causes and treatments, as well as what legal rights and ramifications are involved with asbestos exposure-related cases. 

Types and Causes

There are three main types of mesothelioma, determined based on where the tumor initially develops. Although lung development is the most common, it is not the only place the cancer can occur. The mesothelium, which is the area affected by this cancer, is found in the lungs, the abdomen, and the heart. As such, mesothelioma can be found in all of these places, as well. 

  • Pleural Mesothelioma: Cancer that develops in the mesothelium of the lungs and chest, which accounts for 80-85% of all cases. Pleural tumors are caused by inhaling asbestos fibers. 
  • Peritoneal Mesothelioma: This cancer is caused by asbestos ingestion, which usually occurs by inhaling the fibers, coughing them up, and then swallowing them. This diagnosis accounts for about 10-15% of all mesothelioma cases, and occurs in the mesothelium around the abdomen, rather than affecting the lungs. 
  • Pericardial Mesothelioma: This occurs when tumors are found in the mesothelium surrounding the heart. Only accounting for about one percent of all cases, this specific cancer is not usually diagnosed until after death. Unlike other types, the specific cause of this condition is still unknown. Only about 25% of patients have a history of asbestos exposure, so the relationship between asbestos exposure and this type of mesothelioma is still being studied along with other potential causes. 

Testicular mesothelioma is another possible diagnosis, but this condition is extremely rare. Less than one percent of cases diagnosed are of this type, so there is little information about the cause of the condition or how it may relate to asbestos exposure, if at all.