Mesothelioma: Description, Diagnosis and Treatment Prognosis

“The number one cause of cancer is ignorance. Applied knowledge of nutrition can help you remove or reduce the risk factors and abort the manifestation of any growth.”

Mesothelioma: Description, Diagnosis and Treatment Prognosis

–Uzo Onukwugha, MD

Mesothelioma is a tumor of the flat cells that cover the surface of the lungs, adjacent wind pipes and the thoracic cavity. Mesothelioma is an acronym of mesothelium (flat or cellophane covering) and oma (Latin name for growth or tumor). It is a rare type of lung tumor and tends to be associated with occupational hazard. It is an affliction that involves a multi-disciplinary approach and institutions: the physicians, occupational and preventive medicine, surgeons, occupational safety, worker’s compensation, attorneys, occupational therapists and labor unions.

Risk Factors and Evolution of Tumor:

Long term inhalation of asbestos fibers is associated with certain occupations like ship-building, insulation, construction and demolition. The worst culprits are blue and white asbestos. Cigarette smoking may double the risk. The disease is subtle and may take several years if not decades to produce symptoms. At onset, the diseases may not produce symptoms. A construction worker may only notice symptoms long after retirement. Appearance of symptoms may prompt the victim to seek medical help. The symptoms and signs may include shortness of breath, chest pain, fibrosis, pleural effusion, calcified plaques and bronchial cancer. The cancer may eat up the lungs, wind-pipes, ribs and adjacent muscles.

Types of Mesothelioma: The growth may be fibrosed and localized or it may be diffused and malignant spreading to adjacent tissues.

Fibrous Mesothelioma:

Presents as chest discomfort, and all sorts of breathing problems. As with pleural-affected tumors, joint pain may be noticed in the hands, wrists, ankles and knees. Examination of the hands may reveal finger clubbing.

Chest x-ray is important in the clinical diagnosis and may reveal localized growth as soft-tissue mass. There may be air-fluid level showing effusion into the lung cavity.

The prognosis with surgical resection for this type is good even with evidence of spread. However, some may progress to full-blown malignancy.

Malignant Mesothelioma:

The symptoms of malignant mesothelioma appear much later and seem to peak at 55. The symptoms are diffuse and tend to develop in a couple of decades after exposure to asbestos. Cigarette smoke tends to worsen the onset of the symptoms like breathlessness, and chest pain.

Chest x-ray may reveal connective tissue complications like clumping of the pleural tissues (pleurisy), pleural effusion, lung collapse, basal fibrosis, pulmonary hypertension and lupus erythematosis. Other autoimmune diseases and bronchial cancer may develop.

Sputum test is non-contributory and open pleural biopsy may be necessary to characterize the type of tumor before treatment.

At this stage, surgery is hopeless. Palliative radiotherapy or anticancer chemotherapy may be attempted but the prognosis is hopeless.

Prevention–better than cure:

The best treatment of mesothelioma is preventive measures and health advice to the at- risk professions. These include wearing face masks and finding alternatives to asbestos and quitting smoking. Change of jobs may be necessary.

Complimentary Treatment:

Green super foods like spirulina, chlorella, barley grass, wheat grass, green kamut, and alfalfa helps the body to stand the stress of chemotherapy and radiotherapy. Green foods are also known to boost immunity and attack free radicals, neutralize toxins released by cancer cells and improve the overall quality of life of patients. Supplements like multivitamins, minerals, aloe vera, and essential fatty acids can be added to the greens as adjunct to treatment.

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