Most Americans know that mesothelioma is a kind of cancer and that it has something to do with asbestos. Beyond that, the average person’s knowledge on the subject might be hazy. Common questions include: what exactly is mesothelioma? Is it the same as lung cancer? Can it be treated or cured?
In today’s post, we’d like to share some information that recently appeared in a Q&A with a doctor from the prestigious Mayo Clinic. He first clarifies that although mesothelioma is a rare type of cancer that often affects the lungs, it is not the same thing as lung cancer.
Unlike lung cancer, which usually develops inside lung tissue, mesothelioma develops on the exterior lining of the lungs, which is called the pleura. As we note on our website, however, there are actually four types of mesothelioma. They all develop in the linings or membranes surrounding internal organs and are differentiated by the organs affected. In addition to the lungs, mesothelioma can be found around the heart, in the lining of the abdominal cavity and in membranes that surround men’s testicles.
Unfortunately, as Dr. Tobias Peikert explains, mesothelioma usually takes several decades to develop and there isn’t a screening test to detect it early. By the time patients experience symptoms, the cancer has likely reached its later stages. Because of this and because it is difficult to treat with conventional cancer treatments, mesothelioma patients have a very low survival rate long-term.
There is a lot that we still don’t know about mesothelioma, but we do know that the biggest risk factor for developing it is exposure to asbestos. Even after being banned in the United States in the late 20th century, asbestos remains in older buildings and building materials. Until all such buildings are renovated or demolished, asbestos exposure will remain a significant risk to anyone occupying those buildings.
Source: Huntington Beach Independent, “Mayo Clinic: Asbestos exposure most significant risk factor for mesothelioma,” Dr. Tobias Peikert, July 30, 2015