Mesothelioma is a rare form of cancer that develops in the mesothelial cells. These cells are tissue that surround or line the lungs, heart, and stomach. The mesothelial cells protect these organs by producing a lubricating fluid that allows these organs to move smoothly. There are 2 types of tumors of the mesothelium, "benign" and "malignant". A benign tumor is non-cancerous, which means it does not cause any damage or will not harm you. A malignant tumor of the mesothelial cells is called a malignant mesothelioma. Because tumors of the mesothelium are usually cancerous, malignant mesothelioma is usually just called "mesothelioma". At one time, malignant mesothelioma was considered very rare.
The incidence of malignant mesothelioma, however, has increased at an alarming rate. Today, at least 14 cases per million persons in the United States develop malignant mesothelioma each year. This means that over 3000 persons are diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma annually. This number is probably understated because many cases of malignant mesothelioma are not properly diagnosed.
Mesothelioma takes a long time to incubate in the human body, sometimes occurring twenty to thirty years after people have been exposed to asbestos. Many trace the rise in mesothelioma rates to the great building booms of the sixties and seventies, before asbestos was known to be such a health hazard. Men and women who worked in the mining industry, shipbuilding, and construction, especially the insulating industry during that period are now presenting themselves to their doctorâ€™s offices with symptoms of this deadly disease.
It is known as a deadly disease because most patients die within two years of being diagnosed with mesothelioma. They may have had symptoms of this disease before hand but likely thought it was just an asthmatic condition or lung infection. By the time they are properly diagnosed it is often too late. Mesothelioma is also a tragic disease because people were simply going to work without knowing the dangers they were facing and only many years later do they discover that their job in construction, the military or insulating pipes was actually killing them slowly from the inside out.
The only good news about mesothelioma is that scientists and doctors now know what causes mesothelioma and can ensure that hardly any future workers will be exposed to the dangers of asbestos fibers or the pain and suffering of mesothelioma. This is small comfort to the thousands of Americans who have already lost loved ones from this disease but at least future generations of workers are unlikely to suffer and die in these working conditions.
Anyone who has worked in any industry that caused an exposure to asbestos should have their doctor check for the development of mesothelioma. In some cases early detection can provide alternative treatment procedures that can alleviate and even stop the spread of this dehabilitating disease. There are also many sources of information about mesothelioma within the Mesothelioma Medical website in which anyone can find out more about mesothelioma and the damage it is causing to the health and lives of thousands of Americans and their families.