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Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

What is Mesothelioma?

Mesothelioma is cancer of the mesothelium. The mesothelium membrane is the protective sac that covers most of the body’s internal organs. It is made up of 2 layers, one layer surrounds the organ and the other forms a layer around that and in between these 2 layers a lubricating fluid lets organs move easily against one another. The mesothelium can be called a different name depending on which part of the body it is in.

Asbestos fibres are so tiny and sharp that when inhaled they can become imbedded in the lung tissue and can in fact pass through the lung wall and lodge in the mesothelium. A mesothelium adjacent to the lungs is called the pleura. The most common place for mesothelioma cancer to be found is in the pleura, the lungs themselves, the peritoneum and the abdomen.


Although mesothelioma is still a comparatively rare disease, instances of diagnosed cases have increased in the last 20 years because the exposure to asbestos dust which is known to cause mesothelioma typically occurs many years before any symptoms appear. Normally between 30 to 50 years after the initial exposure to asbestos dust.

Symptoms of mesothelioma can range from a dry cough, pain in the abdomen, shortness of breath, pain in the chest or swelling due to a build up of fluid in the abdomen. Other symptoms are weight loss, bowel obstruction, blood clotting and fatigue. These symptoms are similar to many other conditions and diagnosing mesothelioma from a description of symptoms alone is very difficult. Therefore, most doctors will begin by taking a detailed work history from the patient. It is very common for an individual when questioned about their work history to have forgotten precisely where and when the asbestos exposure occurred which make diagnosis even more problematic.

After taking a detailed work history the hospital will usually commission a CT scan and biopsy. It is possible to diagnose mesothelioma reliably from blood tests alone which are less invasive than biopsy and this is likely to become a standard diagnostic tool in the future.

Treatment for mesothelioma would be tailored to suit the individual and the stage at which the disease has been diagnosed. Typically the victim can expect to be offered surgery, radiotherapy or chemotherapy or a combination of all three.

At centres of excellence around the world intense research is underway aimed at finding new treatments to combat mesothelioma. Unfortunately it seems that a dedicated asbestos research facility that had been planned for the UK will not now happen, a casualty of government cuts in the wake of the recession.

Simpson Millar LLP Solicitors support a worldwide ban on asbestos and asbestos products. If you have been diagnosed with mesothelioma and would like legal help or information please call our Asbestos Team on 0808 129 3320 for friendly legal advice.

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