There are many differences between malignant and benign mesothelioma. Malignant mesothelioma is a rare and aggressive form of cancer that impacts the mesothelium, which is the thin tissue that covers most of your internal organs. Benign mesothelioma, on the other hand, generally consists of abnormal growths or tumors that do not spread.
These medical conditions both require medical treatment, but one is a progressive disease with no cure, while the other is not. As a result, the treatment protocols for these conditions differ substantially. The prognosis for these conditions also varies widely according to whether the mesothelioma is malignant or benign.
Mesothelioma refers to irregular growths on the mesothelium, which is a lining made up of thin tissue that covers many of your internal organs. The mesothelium produces a special fluid that lubricates internal organs and helps them slide against one another. For example, the pleura is a type of mesothelium that lines the cavity in your chest that contains your lungs. The fluid that the pleura produces makes it easier for you to breathe by allowing your lungs to expand and contract.
Although it can occur in other places in the body, mesothelioma occurs most often in the chest and stomach. In some cases, the excess growth of cells on the mesothelium is benign, meaning they are non-cancerous and relatively harmless. Benign tumors do not replicate and spread to other parts of the body like cancer cells can. In other cases, however, the cells become cancerous, resulting in malignant mesothelioma.
Mesothelioma Symptoms and Treatment
According to Mayo Clinic, the symptoms of mesothelioma depend on where the abnormal cells are present in the body. In the case of pleural mesothelioma—which is located in the lung cavity—common symptoms include chest pain, coughing, and shortness of breath, among others. Peritoneal mesothelioma, which occurs in the stomach lining (also known as the peritoneum), can result in nausea, abdominal pain, and abdominal swelling. If mesothelioma is present elsewhere in the body, the symptoms may be different from those of pleural or peritoneal mesothelioma. Symptoms can also vary from one person to the next.
Treatment depends on the location of the mesothelioma, the stage of the disease, and your overall health. Mesothelioma is an aggressive disease that patients and doctors often do not detect until it is very advanced and has spread throughout the body. As a result, mesothelioma may be fatal in many cases. However, some patients can benefit from surgery (particularly in the case of benign mesothelioma), chemotherapy, and radiation.
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Malignant mesothelioma consists of clumps of cancerous cells that spread rapidly. This occurs most often around the lungs and stomach, although it can also occur around the heart and reproductive organs. The rapid spread of the disease—or metastasis—causes it to affect other major body systems and organs.
Doctors initially conduct diagnostic testing to determine how far the malignant mesothelioma has spread throughout the body. This testing may consist of biopsies, CT scans, MRIs, and/or PET scans. Cancer stages range from one to four, with Stage 1 being the least serious and Stage 4 being the most serious. The stage depends primarily on how widespread the malignant mesothelioma is throughout the body. Based on the patient’s stage, doctors can then determine the appropriate course of treatment.
The major difference between malignant and benign mesothelioma is that one type is cancerous, and the other is not. The Cleveland Clinic states that benign mesothelioma consists of fibrous, non-cancerous tumors that often occur in the pleura, or the lining surrounding the lungs and chest cavity. These tumors do not metastasize or spread to other parts of the body. Benign cysts may also grow on the peritoneum, which is the lining of the stomach, or in the lining of the reproductive organs of both men and women.
Generally, surgery is the recommended treatment for benign mesothelioma tumors. Although not cancerous, they can cause the same symptoms as malignant mesothelioma, such as shortness of breath and coughing. In other cases, even when the tumors are relatively large, patients may not have any symptoms. Some benign tumors can recur following surgery, but others do not.
Understand Mesothelioma and Your Legal Options
When you or a loved one receives a mesothelioma diagnosis, you likely feel overwhelmed, concerned, and unsure what to do next. If you were exposed to asbestos in your workplace that caused your mesothelioma, you may be able to seek financial compensation for your injuries.
The attorneys of Pintas & Mullins Law Firm can analyze your situation and determine if you have any means of legal recourse. To learn more, call us today at (800) 794-0444 to schedule a free case review.