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Types of Mesothelioma Cancer

The mesothelium is a paper-thin layer that serves as a protective and lubricating film over the internal organs. When asbestos damages this layer the resulting disease is called mesothelioma. This disease can be classified in several ways, with the most common being the location.

Pleural Mesothelioma

As the most common type of mesothelioma, pleural mesothelioma accounts for up to 75 percent of all mesothelioma cases. It originates in the pleura, which is the two-layered protective lining around the lungs, and is commonly misdiagnosed as bronchitis or other less severe diseases at first. It often spreads to the lungs.

Common Symptoms:

  • Chest pains
  • Persistent dry cough
  • Shortness of breath
  • Night sweats
  • Fever
  • Fatigue
  • Difficulty swallowing

How It Happens

Pleural mesothelioma starts when microscopic asbestos fibers are inhaled deep into the lungs. These fibers, either curly or straight, are all sharp and quickly become embedded in the lung tissue.

The fibers are never expelled. Instead, they form an irritation in the lungs. Some researchers believe this irritation can develop into cancerous tumors over time. Other think the fibers launch an immune response in the lungs that eventually leads to tumors.

Where It Happens

As the name of the disease suggests, pleural mesothelioma attacks the lung area. Because of this, patients initially report coughing and difficulty breathing as the first symptoms. Often, these symptoms are ignored, causing the high incidence of late diagnoses. The disease is most treatable in the earlier stages.

Peritoneal Mesothelioma

This type of mesothelioma originates in the lining that surrounds the abdominal area, called the peritoneum. It is a thin layer of flattened cells resting on a thin layer of connective tissue. Peritoneal mesothelioma is the second most common type of mesothelioma, accounting for up to 20 percent of the diagnoses.

Common Symptoms:

  • Abdominal swelling
  • Abdominal pain
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Bowel disruptions (constipation or diarrhea)
  • Weight loss
  • Fatigue

How It Happens

As with other types of mesothelioma, peritoneal mesothelioma starts after the unwitting victim breathes in asbestos fibers. Instead of settling in the lungs, however, the fibers move through the body. Researchers suspect the fibers travel the body through the lymphatic system or through the pressurized systems in the body that also cause water and blood to flow.

Where It Happens

Peritoneal mesothelioma can cause a build up of fluids in the abdominal area, causing severe pain and discomfort. This type of mesothelioma is known to quickly spread to the liver, spleen and bowel.

Pericardial Mesothelioma

This rare form of mesothelioma accounts for less than five percent of all mesothelioma cases. The disease damages the lining around the heart and eventually the heart.

Common Symptoms:

  • Chest pains
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Heart palpitations
  • Irregular heart beat
  • Coughing
  • Fever
  • Night sweats
  • Fatigue

How It Happens

Like peritoneal mesothelioma, pericardial mesothelioma is thought to occur when stray mesothelioma fibers travel from the lungs through the lymphatic system or through down the pressure gradient.

Where It Happens

As this type of mesothelioma progresses, it cuts down the heart's ability to deliver oxygen throughout the body, causing a decline in overall health. Many of the symptoms mimic those of a heart attack.

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