Generally, mesothelioma is not a type of sarcoma. Mesothelioma is cancer that develops in the layer of tissue known as the mesothelium. Sarcoma, though, is cancer that begins in the bones and connective tissue, which is different from the tissue mesothelioma affects.
However, according to the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO), there is a rare sarcomatoid form of mesothelioma that affects 7%-15% of people with mesothelioma. This type of mesothelioma appears more resistant to treatment, including standard chemotherapy. Because of this resistance to treatment, early detection and treatment are especially important.
The most common type of mesothelioma is epithelioid, which approximately 70% of mesothelioma patients experience. Epithelioid mesothelioma often grows more slowly and responds better to treatment than sarcomatoid. Mixed, or biphasic, type mesothelioma includes both epithelioid and sarcomatoid cells.
Signs and Symptoms of Mesothelioma
Cancer develops when healthy cells grow and change. The signs and symptoms of mesothelioma will vary depending on where the tumor grows in the body. The most common form of mesothelioma is pleural mesothelioma, which develops in the tissue around the lungs.
According to the Mayo Clinic, pleural mesothelioma symptoms include shortness of breath, weight loss, painful coughing, difficulty swallowing, chest pain, and the presence of lumps underneath the skin on the chest. As it progresses, pleural mesothelioma may also cause pain due to pressure on the nerves and spinal cord, as well as fluid buildup in the chest.
Peritoneal mesothelioma occurs in the abdomen. Symptoms include unexplained weight loss, nausea, and pain and swelling in the belly. There also are extremely rare forms of mesothelioma that develop in the heart and testicles.
Symptoms of mesothelioma may present mildly, and the disease can progress for years before detection. Often, you can mistake signs of the disease for other common illnesses. If you have persistent symptoms, talk to your doctor about seeking a mesothelioma diagnosis.
How to Diagnose and Treat Mesothelioma
If you have symptoms of mesothelioma, your doctor will conduct a physical exam to check for the presence of lumps. They may also order a chest X-ray, PET scan, CT scan, or MRI to get a picture of tumors in the mesothelium.
Blood tests cannot diagnose mesothelioma, but they can provide your doctor with an overall picture of your health. Your doctor can also screen for certain substances found in high levels in the blood of people with mesothelioma. Biopsies are the best way to determine if a patient has cancer. Your doctor may want to biopsy a sample of blood or tissue.
Doctors can treat mesothelioma using chemotherapy, radiation, drug therapy, and surgery. Mesothelioma that is a type of sarcoma is difficult to treat, but your doctor can use a combination of methods. There is no cure for mesothelioma, and the overall survival rate across all stages is just 10%.
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Causes of Mesothelioma
As with most cancers, there is no single and definitive cause of mesothelioma, though several factors increase the risk of developing it. By far, the single most significant risk factor is asbestos exposure.
According to the American Cancer Society, up to 80% of mesothelioma patients have been exposed to asbestos. Asbestos is a mineral found naturally in the earth. For decades, it had many industrial uses, such as building insulation, roofing shingles, floor tiles, brake pads, cement, and other products. It is now known to be carcinogenic to humans.
You can ingest or inhale asbestos fibers if they become airborne. The particles can irritate the lungs or abdomen, which can lead to mesothelioma, though it could take decades for the disease to develop.
Smoking, exposure to radon or other radiation, and a rare genetic mutation also can increase a person’s risk of developing mesothelioma.
Asbestos Exposure Common for Certain Workers
Many manufacturers used asbestos in various products, primarily building materials, from the 1930s to the 1960s. Usage in the United States dropped considerably after the Environmental Protection Agency enacted a partial ban in 1989. However, the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 125 million people worldwide still get exposed to asbestos in the workplace.
Occupations likely to experience asbestos exposure include:
- Shipyard workers
- Brake mechanics
- Asbestos miners
Anyone who works with asbestos should wear protective gear. Before leaving the workplace, you should shower and change clothing to reduce the risk of carrying asbestos fibers home on your clothes or body. If you are unsure if you work with asbestos, speak to your employer.
People who remodel old homes and buildings should do so carefully. If you are unsure if your building contains asbestos, contact professionals to test for its presence and safely remove it, if necessary.
Pintas & Mullins Law Firm Can Help
If you have mesothelioma, you may qualify to seek compensation for medical expenses, pain and suffering, lost wages, and more. Contact Pintas & Mullins Law Firm today at (800) 307-3113 today to discuss your case with a team member.