What is Mesothelioma?

Mesothelioma is a rare cancer that affects the mesothelium, a membrane that lines the internal organs and vital body cavities of the abdomen. Most mesotheliomas occur in the pleura around the lungs (75 percent), the peritoneum that covers the abdominal organs (10 to 20 percent) and the pericardium surrounding the heart (one percent). The remainder occur in other organs.

The primary cause for all mesotheliomas is asbestos exposure. Asbestos is a fibrous mineral used to produce fire-proof products. Before the dangers of asbestos became known, workers in the industries that made or used the mineral were often exposed every day to microscopic asbestos fibers in the air they breathed. The fibers became embedded in the tissue of the lungs and mesothelium, where they provoked the cellular release of cancer-causing proteins.

Mesothelioma can occur many years after the last exposure to asbestos. Because its symptoms are so much like those of other common, less deadly diseases, mesothelioma is often diagnosed late in its course.

Treatment plans can include a variety of options, and will vary from patient to patient.

At Penn Medicine, the physicians, nurses and healthcare professionals of the Penn Mesothelioma and Pleural Program have devoted their professional lives to finding a cure. They are equipped with the most advanced training, the latest technology and access to leading research so that those faced with a mesothelioma diagnosis will receive a care plan of the highest quality and the assurance of the highest possible quality of life.

Types of Mesothelioma

Main types of mesothelioma are:

  • Pleural Mesothelioma – affects the lungs and protective lining(pleura)
  • Peritoneal Mesothelioma – affects the abdominal cavity
  • Pericardial Mesothelioma – affects the heart

Mesothelioma and Pleural Disease Risk Factors

Mesothelioma is a rare cancer, with approximately 2,000 to 3,000 new cases diagnosed a year in the United States. Exposure to asbestos accounts for up to 80 percent of all cases.

Mesothelioma is more common in men mostly due to occupational exposure to asbestos. Veterans, miners, factory workers, and those working in the manufacturing or construction business are at a greater risk of developing mesothelioma due to asbestos exposure. Living with an individual who works with asbestos may also increase an individual's risk for developing mesothelioma.

Those who have been exposed to asbestos and are experiencing health problems, or have family members that may have been exposed, should contact Penn Medicine's Mesothelioma and Pleural Program to discuss their healthcare options.

Contact Penn Medicine Today

Our Nurse/Patient navigator can assist you and your loved ones with questions about mesothelioma and pleural diseases; as well as scheduling appointments with our specialists. Contact us today to find out more about diagnosis and treatment options. Please call 215-662-9697.