Mesothelioma is a cancer that starts in the linings of major organs. It has four main types. Most people develop mesothelioma in the lining of their lungs (pleural mesothelioma) or abdomen (peritoneal mesothelioma). It can also occur in the lining surrounding the heart (pericardial mesothelioma) or testes (testicular mesothelioma). There is no cure for any type of mesothelioma, but medical treatments may help you live longer.
What Are the Types of Mesothelioma?
There are 4 different types of malignant mesothelioma. Mesothelioma tumors grow in the linings of major organs (mesothelium), and which type you have depends on where the cancer started.
Mesothelioma can occur in the lining of your:
Though mesothelioma can start in different areas in the body, all types share similarities. First, all forms share a common cause: exposure to asbestos fibers. Asbestos is a strong, fibrous mineral once used in many construction and vehicle products.
If these products were damaged, microscopic asbestos fibers would enter the nearby air. Those who inhaled these fibers were in grave danger. Once inside the body, asbestos fibers get lodged into nearby tissue.
The fibers cannot naturally be broken down by the body, and over time they cause damage at a cellular level. This damage eventually leads to mesothelioma cancer after 20-50 years.
To diagnose mesothelioma, doctors will scan the affected area for signs of cancer, and then take a biopsy (tissue sample) to look for cancer cells.
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What Is My Mesothelioma Outlook?
There is no cure for any type of mesothelioma. There are treatments available for each type that can extend a patient’s lifespan. However, the effectiveness of a treatment plan depends on each person’s unique case.
Filing a claim with a mesothelioma law firm can help you afford the high cost of treatment. When you file a claim, the law firm will work on your behalf to get you financial compensation.
Claims are usually brought against the makers of asbestos products who knew the health risks of their products but sold them to make billions.
Sokolove Law has over 40 years of experience handling mesothelioma legal claims. We have successfully filed thousands of claims and won billions for our clients. To learn how we can help you, call (800) 647-3434 to speak with a case manager.
Mesothelioma by Type
Because mesothelioma can develop in different parts of your body — often with only vague symptoms — you should learn the basics about each type.
Consult your doctor if you are feeling any of the symptoms mentioned below. Make sure to discuss your history of asbestos exposure. This can help them narrow down the cause of your illness and lower the risk of a misdiagnosis.
Pleural mesothelioma is by far the most common type. It accounts for 75% of all mesothelioma cases. Pleural mesothelioma develops in the lining of the lungs (also known as the pleura). The pleura helps reduce friction as the lungs work. There are two layers in the pleura with fluid in between them.
When asbestos fibers get lodged in the pleura, they cause serious damage and scarring. This makes it harder for the pleura to do its job over time. The pleura may become thick, and the fluid may build up and leak into the lungs.
However, the symptoms for malignant pleural mesothelioma start out mild and vague and can easily be mistaken for many other illnesses.
Early symptoms include:
- Chest pain
- Difficulty breathing
- Shortness of breath
As the cancer worsens, serious symptoms include:
- Coughing up blood
Patients with pleural mesothelioma may also experience pain in their shoulders, ribs, and upper back.
To treat pleural mesothelioma, doctors will first determine if the disease has spread. If the disease is contained to just the pleura, they will remove the diseased portions. They will also remove parts of other organs, such as a lung, as a precaution in some cases.
Peritoneal mesothelioma is the second most common type. This type makes up around 20% of all mesothelioma cases. Peritoneal mesothelioma starts in the lining of the abdomen (the peritoneum).
The peritoneum is a protective layer of tissue that covers the lining of major organs, including the stomach, large intestine, and small intestine. Early symptoms may include abdominal swelling, pain, and loss of appetite. Like symptoms for other mesothelioma types, these start out mild and only worsen.
Later symptoms of peritoneal mesothelioma include:
- Abdominal pain
- High fever
- Nausea and vomiting
- Weight loss
Malignant peritoneal mesothelioma responds better to treatments compared to the other types. Most often, mesothelioma surgeons will perform cytoreductive surgery with HIPEC. This procedure removes cancerous tumors from the abdominal cavity and then bathes the surgery site in heated cancer-killing drugs.
However, cytoreduction with HIPEC may not be an option if the cancer has spread to other parts of the body. In these cases, less intense mesothelioma treatment methods will be used to manage painful symptoms.
Pericardial mesothelioma is a rare form of mesothelioma. About 200 cases have been reported in total. Pericardial mesothelioma develops in the lining of the heart (the pericardium).
Because this type of mesothelioma is so rare, scientists are still determining its exact causes and symptoms. The most important symptoms are inflammation and fluid buildup in the pericardium from cancerous tumors.
Other notable symptoms include:
- Chest pain
- Irregular heartbeat
- Persistent cough
Pericardial mesothelioma, if caught early enough, can be treated with a pericardiectomy. This removes the diseased part of the pericardium where most of the cancer is. However, if the cancer has spread, this will not be an option because it could put the patient’s life at risk.
Pericardial mesothelioma has a very poor life expectancy. Most patients require palliative care, as they are diagnosed with the disease after it has spread.
Testicular mesothelioma is the rarest type. Between the late 1950s and 2012, there were only 100 reported cases of testicular mesothelioma.
Testicular mesothelioma develops in the lining of the testes known as the tunica vaginalis. Over time, cancerous masses may develop on the testicles themselves.
Much like pericardial mesothelioma, little is known about how this type develops or all of its symptoms.
Reported symptoms include:
- Fluid buildup in the scrotum
- Thickening of tunica vaginalis
- Swelling of the testicles
In nearly all cases, the cancer starts out in one testicle before spreading throughout the body. To treat testicular mesothelioma, doctors will typically remove the affected testicle. Chemotherapy may also be used if the cancer has spread, though its effects are limited.
Testicular mesothelioma has decent survival odds if caught early on. Recent data suggests that the median survival rate for patients is two years. Some patients may live longer than five years after their first diagnosis in rare cases.
Mesothelioma Cell Types
The cell type of mesothelioma also plays a role in how the cancer grows and spreads. When doctors analyze sample cells of the cancer under a microscope, they are trying to determine the type of cells present.
Mesothelioma patients may have one of the following cell types:
The most common cell type of mesothelioma is epithelioid, which accounts for up to 70% of all cases. It is also the most treatable cell type of mesothelioma.
The epithelial cell structure is well-defined, and the cells tend to clump together as they grow. This results in a slower spread of cancer, and makes diseased cells easier to identify and remove.
As the most common cell type, more doctors have encountered epithelioid mesothelioma, and there is a more diverse range of cancer treatment options available. These factors tend to improve a patient’s life expectancy compared to other cell types of mesothelioma.
The least common cell type of mesothelioma is sarcomatoid, which accounts for 7-15% of all cases. It is the least treatable cell type of mesothelioma.
The cell structure of sarcomatoid mesothelioma is long and narrow, though it is not well defined. The “spindle-shaped” cells often grow without a discernable pattern and spread through soft tissue.
Due to the way it grows and spreads, sarcomatoid mesothelioma is harder to recognize and remove. The rarity of the cell-type also poses problems in diagnosis because doctors have less experience identifying the disease.
Biphasic mesotheliomas include both epithelioid and sarcomatoid cells and account for 10-20% of all cases.
In order to be classified as biphasic, there must be at least 10% of each cell type present. For example, if 91% of cells identified were epithelioid, then the cell-type would simply be listed as epithelioid.
The higher the percentage of the epithelioid cells, the better for patients with biphasic mesothelioma. This is because epithelioid mesothelioma is easier to detect, treat, and remove than is sarcomatoid.
Help for Each Type of Mesothelioma
If you or someone you love may be suffering from mesothelioma, it is important to seek medical care from a mesothelioma specialist. They will be able to make a proper diagnosis and recommend the next steps for mesothelioma treatment.
Be sure to take extra notice if you or a loved one meet these criteria:
- Has a history of asbestos exposure
- Has persistent, yet vague, symptoms
- Is over the age of 40
Following a mesothelioma diagnosis, you may consider filing a claim with a mesothelioma law firm. Most cases of mesothelioma could have been prevented had companies not made products with asbestos.
For decades, these manufacturers knew the health risks that asbestos posed. However, they continued to use asbestos to make a profit, even when they realized it could lead to cancer.
A mesothelioma legal claim helps you earn monetary compensation from these companies. This payout can help pay for costs associated with your medical care and provide financial security for your family.