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Malignant Mesothelioma

Malignant mesothelioma is a rare disease that occurs when cancerous cells develop in the mesothelium, a thin membrane covering different organs in the body. In most cases, it affects the pleura (the thin layer of tissue that lines the chest cavity and covers the lungs). The biggest risk factor involves exposure to asbestos. Because this disease is very difficult to control, clinical trials are being conducted that are designed to find new treatments and better ways to use current treatments.

What Is Malignant Mesothelioma?

Malignant mesothelioma is a disease in which malignant (cancer) cells are found in the mesothelium, which is a thin layer of tissue that covers most organs in the body. Mesothelioma most commonly affects the pleura (the thin layer of tissue that lines the chest cavity and covers the lungs) or the peritoneum (the thin layer of tissue that lines the abdomen and covers most of the organs in the abdomen). This article discusses malignant mesothelioma of the pleura.

What Are the Risk Factors?

Being exposed to asbestos can affect the risk of developing malignant mesothelioma. Many people with malignant mesothelioma have worked or lived in places where they inhaled or swallowed asbestos. After being exposed to asbestos, it usually takes a long time for malignant mesothelioma to occur.
Other risk factors for malignant mesothelioma include the following:
  • Living with a person who works near asbestos.
  • Being exposed to a certain virus.

Symptoms and Diagnosis of Malignant Mesothelioma

For information on malignant mesothelioma symptoms, see the full eMedTV article called Mesothelioma Symptoms.
In order to make a malignant mesothelioma diagnosis, a doctor will perform a medical history and physical exam, followed by specific tests and procedures to confirm the diagnosis. Some of these tests may include CT scans, biopsy, and surgery. A malignant mesothelioma diagnosis is often difficult to make because the symptoms associated with the disease are similar to those of many other medical conditions.
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