What Are the Different Kinds of Mesothelioma?

Even if you’re unfamiliar with the specifics of the disease, you’ve likely heard of mesothelioma. Mesothelioma is a rare type of cancer most commonly associated with asbestos exposure, but you may not realize that there are different types of mesothelioma that can affect you.

What are the different kinds of mesothelioma and how do you tell the difference between them?

Mesothelioma: A Primer

Let’s start with some basic information about mesothelioma, so you can understand what all these subtypes have in common. Most mesothelioma cases arise as a result of prolonged exposure to a material known as asbestos; when asbestos is disturbed, cell-damaging fibers are released into the air. These fibers irritate cells in the lining tissue between your organs, ultimately increasing your risk of developing cancer there. Mesothelioma is a terminal cancer, but it can be treated and abated.

The Main Types of Mesothelioma

The main types of mesothelioma are defined based on where the cancer develops.

For example:

·       Pleural mesothelioma. Pleural mesothelioma is the most common type of mesothelioma, affecting the lungs and the lining around the chest cavity. People with this type of mesothelioma typically experience chest pain, pain while breathing, and a persistent dry cough.

·       Peritoneal mesothelioma. Peritoneal mesothelioma is also somewhat common, affecting the lining of the abdomen. People with this type of mesothelioma typically experience abdominal pain, nausea, appetite loss, and weight loss.

·       Pericardial mesothelioma. Pericardial mesothelioma is rarer, affecting the lining in and around the heart. People with this type of mesothelioma typically experience chest pain, heart murmurs, and other circulatory symptoms.

There are also differences in how and when mesothelioma develops.

For example:

·       Cell types. There are different types of cancerous cells that emerge and grow in mesothelioma. For example, epithelioid, sarcomatoid, and biphasic cell types all have slightly different effects and treatment possibilities. Your doctor may prescribe a different type of treatment to you based on what type of cells are affecting you.

·       Symptoms. Different people present different symptoms. One person with pleural mesothelioma may only lightly cough on an occasional basis; another person with nearly identical rates of exposure might struggle with severe coughing fits every day.

·       Intensity. Mesothelioma tends to get more intense over time, especially if left untreated. Even so, different people at the same stage of mesothelioma development might experience totally different levels of symptom intensity.

·       Spread. Unfortunately, mesothelioma is a type of cancer especially prone to spreading. In some patients, the cancer stays relegated to only one area. In others, it spreads throughout the body rapidly. The more this cancer spreads, the harder it becomes to treat.

·       Treatment options. There are many different treatment options available for mesothelioma, including surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and newer approaches like gene therapy. Each of these treatment options has unique strengths and weaknesses, so no two mesothelioma patients are going to have exactly the same treatment plan.

Your Best Resources for Mesothelioma

If you or a loved one has mesothelioma symptoms, it’s important to recognize and tap into the resources most likely to help you on this journey:

·       Mesothelioma specialists. Mesothelioma is a relatively rare form of cancer, so there aren’t many specialists in the United States. If you want to get a verify the diagnosis and the best treatment options available, it’s in your best interest to work with a specialist – even if that means traveling across the country.

·       A lawyer. It’s also important to talk to a lawyer as early as possible. Your lawyer can help you understand the benefits that may already be available to you, and they may be in a position to help you file a claim for compensation. In any case, they can make financially managing this disease much easier.

·       Local and community resources. Joining a cancer support group can help you cope with your diagnosis, manage your stress, and forge more powerful emotional connections with people going through a similar experience. Best of all, these support groups are usually free, so they only cost you a bit of time to attend.

·       Family and friends. Don’t hesitate to lean on family members and friends during this difficult time. The people closest to you will be more than willing to help you in any way they can.

Mesothelioma is a complex and often painful disease that affects thousands of new people every year. Now that we’ve come to recognize the threat of asbestos, we no longer use it as a common building material, but that doesn’t change the fact that millions of people have been exposed to it already. If you notice any of the common signs and symptoms of mesothelioma and you know you’ve been exposed to asbestos in the past, it’s important to work proactively to get the treatment and support you need.