Malignant epithelioid mesothelioma is a rare cancer that can affect the lining of organs, such as the lungs, abdomen, or heart. This aggressive and deadly cancer is caused by exposure to asbestos, and it often takes decades for symptoms to appear.
Welcome to our comprehensive guide on malignant epithelioid mesothelioma. In this article, we will provide a thorough explanation of this rare and deadly cancer, including its causes, symptoms, diagnosis, treatment options, and more. We hope that this article will help you gain a better understanding of this disease and its impact on those affected.
But first, let’s start with a brief overview of malignant epithelioid mesothelioma.
What is Malignant Epithelioid Mesothelioma?
Malignant epithelioid mesothelioma is a type of cancer that affects the mesothelium, the thin layer of tissue that lines the lungs, abdomen, and other organs. This cancer is caused by exposure to asbestos, a naturally occurring mineral that was widely used in construction, shipbuilding, and other industries until the 1970s.
When asbestos fibers are inhaled or swallowed, they can become lodged in the mesothelium, causing inflammation and scarring. Over time, this can lead to the development of cancerous cells that grow and spread throughout the body.
Malignant epithelioid mesothelioma is the most common type of mesothelioma, accounting for approximately 70% of cases. It typically affects those who have been exposed to asbestos in their workplace, such as construction workers, shipyard workers, and miners.
Now that we have a basic understanding of this cancer, let’s dive deeper into its causes, symptoms, and diagnosis.
Causes of Malignant Epithelioid Mesothelioma
Asbestos exposure is the primary cause of malignant epithelioid mesothelioma. However, other factors may increase the risk of developing this cancer.
As mentioned earlier, asbestos exposure is the primary cause of malignant epithelioid mesothelioma. When asbestos fibers are inhaled or swallowed, they can become lodged in the mesothelium, causing inflammation and scarring. Over time, this can lead to the development of cancerous cells.
People who have worked in industries that use asbestos or asbestos-containing products are at the highest risk of developing malignant epithelioid mesothelioma. These include:
It’s also possible to develop malignant epithelioid mesothelioma from secondhand exposure to asbestos. For example, if a family member who works with asbestos brings home fibers on their clothes, others in the household may inhale them and develop mesothelioma.
Other Risk Factors
In addition to asbestos exposure, other factors may increase the risk of developing malignant epithelioid mesothelioma. These include:
- Age: The risk of developing mesothelioma increases with age, with most cases occurring in people over the age of 65.
- Gender: Mesothelioma is more common in men than women, likely due to the higher rate of asbestos exposure in male-dominated industries.
- Genetics: Some people may be genetically predisposed to mesothelioma, although this is rare.
- Other lung diseases: People who have other lung diseases, such as emphysema or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), may be at a higher risk of developing mesothelioma.
Now that we understand the primary causes of malignant epithelioid mesothelioma, let’s move on to its symptoms and diagnosis.
Symptoms of Malignant Epithelioid Mesothelioma
The symptoms of malignant epithelioid mesothelioma can vary depending on the location and stage of the cancer. However, some common symptoms include chest pain, shortness of breath, and fatigue.
Malignant epithelioid mesothelioma that affects the lining of the lungs (pleura) may cause the following chest symptoms:
- Chest pain
- Shortness of breath
- Difficulty breathing
- Pleural effusion (buildup of fluid in the chest)
When malignant epithelioid mesothelioma affects the lining of the abdomen (peritoneum), it can cause the following abdominal symptoms:
- Abdominal pain or swelling
- Loss of appetite
Regardless of the location, malignant epithelioid mesothelioma can also cause the following general symptoms:
- Unexplained weight loss
- Night sweats
Diagnosis of Malignant Epithelioid Mesothelioma
Diagnosing malignant epithelioid mesothelioma can be challenging, as the symptoms are similar to those of other lung and abdominal conditions. However, there are several tests and imaging studies that can help diagnose this cancer.
Physical Exam and Medical History
If you are experiencing symptoms of malignant epithelioid mesothelioma, your doctor will likely start by conducting a physical exam and reviewing your medical history. They will ask about your symptoms, any history of asbestos exposure, and other factors that may increase your risk of mesothelioma.
X-Ray and CT Scan
If your doctor suspects that you may have malignant epithelioid mesothelioma, they may order an x-ray or CT scan of your chest or abdomen. These imaging studies can help reveal any abnormalities or tumors in the mesothelium.
The most definitive way to diagnose malignant epithelioid mesothelioma is through a biopsy, in which a small sample of tissue is taken from the affected area and examined under a microscope. There are several types of biopsies that can be used, including:
- Needle biopsy
- Thoracoscopy (for pleural mesothelioma)
- Laparoscopy (for peritoneal mesothelioma)
Once a diagnosis of malignant epithelioid mesothelioma has been confirmed, your doctor will work with you to determine the best treatment options.
Treatment of Malignant Epithelioid Mesothelioma
Treatment for malignant epithelioid mesothelioma depends on the stage and location of the cancer, as well as your overall health and other factors. Treatment options may include surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and more.
Surgery is often the first-line treatment for malignant epithelioid mesothelioma, as it can help remove the cancerous tissue and prevent it from spreading to other parts of the body. There are several types of surgery that may be used, including:
- Pleurectomy and decortication (for pleural mesothelioma)
- Extrapleural pneumonectomy (for pleural mesothelioma)
- Cytoreductive surgery with heated intraperitoneal chemotherapy (for peritoneal mesothelioma)
Chemotherapy and Radiation Therapy
Chemotherapy and radiation therapy may be used in combination with surgery or as standalone treatments for malignant epithelioid mesothelioma. Chemotherapy involves the use of drugs to kill cancer cells, while radiation therapy uses high-energy radiation to destroy cancer cells.
Other Treatment Options
Other treatment options for malignant epithelioid mesothelioma may include immunotherapy, targeted therapy, and clinical trials. Your doctor will work with you to determine the best treatment plan based on your individual needs and circumstances.
What is the survival rate for malignant epithelioid mesothelioma?
The survival rate for malignant epithelioid mesothelioma is relatively low, with an average life expectancy of 12-21 months following diagnosis. However, early detection and treatment can help improve the prognosis.
Is malignant epithelioid mesothelioma curable?
At this time, there is no known cure for malignant epithelioid mesothelioma. However, treatment can help manage symptoms and prolong life expectancy.
Is malignant epithelioid mesothelioma hereditary?
While there is no evidence to suggest that malignant epithelioid mesothelioma is hereditary, some people may be genetically predisposed to the disease.
What are the risk factors for malignant epithelioid mesothelioma?
The primary risk factor for malignant epithelioid mesothelioma is exposure to asbestos. Other risk factors may include age, gender, genetics, and other lung diseases.
What is the difference between benign and malignant mesothelioma?
Benign mesothelioma is a non-cancerous condition that affects the mesothelium. Malignant mesothelioma, on the other hand, is a cancerous condition that can be deadly.
Can malignant epithelioid mesothelioma be prevented?
The best way to prevent malignant epithelioid mesothelioma is to avoid exposure to asbestos. This includes taking precautions when working or living in environments where asbestos may be present.
What are the symptoms of advanced malignant epithelioid mesothelioma?
Advanced malignant epithelioid mesothelioma may cause severe symptoms, including difficulty breathing, chest pain, abdominal swelling, and more.
What is the most effective treatment for malignant epithelioid mesothelioma?
There is no one-size-fits-all treatment for malignant epithelioid mesothelioma, as the best course of action will depend on the stage and location of the cancer, as well as the patient’s overall health and other factors. However, surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy may all be effective treatments for this cancer.
Is there financial assistance available for mesothelioma patients?
Yes, there are several sources of financial assistance available for mesothelioma patients and their families. These may include compensation from asbestos trust funds, veterans benefits, and more.
How can I find a mesothelioma specialist?
You can find a mesothelioma specialist through your doctor or by contacting a mesothelioma treatment center or cancer hospital. It’s important to find a doctor who has experience in treating this rare and complex cancer.
What is mesothelioma staging?
Mesothelioma staging is a system used to describe the extent and severity of the cancer. Staging is based on factors such as tumor size, lymph node involvement, and the presence of metastases in other parts of the body.
How long does it take for mesothelioma to develop?
Mesothelioma can take anywhere from 20 to 50 years to develop after exposure to asbestos. This is known as the latency period.
What is palliative care?
Palliative care is a type of care that focuses on relieving the symptoms and improving the quality of life for patients with serious illnesses, such as malignant epithelioid mesothelioma.
How can I support someone with malignant epithelioid mesothelioma?
If you know someone who has been diagnosed with malignant epithelioid mesothelioma, there are several ways you can offer support. This may include helping with household tasks, offering emotional support, and providing transportation to medical appointments.
Malignant epithelioid mesothelioma is a rare and deadly cancer that can have a significant impact on those affected. However, with early detection and treatment, there is hope for managing symptoms and improving survival rates. If you suspect that you or a loved one may have this cancer, it’s important to seek medical attention right away.
We hope that this article has provided you with a better understanding of malignant epithelioid mesothelioma, including its causes, symptoms, diagnosis, treatment options, and more. If you have any further questions or concerns, please reach out to a healthcare professional for assistance.
Thank you for taking the time to read our comprehensive guide on malignant epithelioid mesothelioma. We hope that this article has been informative and helpful in your understanding of this complex and rare cancer. Please note that the information contained in this article is not intended to replace medical advice, and you should always consult with a healthcare professional if you have any questions or concerns about your health.