To understand Mesothelioma let us first understand what mesothelium is. The mesothelium is a membrane that covers & protects most of the internal organs of the body, the mesothelium is composed of two layers of cells, one layer immediately surrounds the organ the other forms a sac like covering around it. The mesothelium membrane produces a lubricating fluid that is released between these layers, allowing moving organs such as the beating heart and lungs to slide easily against adjacent structures.
The mesothelium is called by different names, depending on where it is located in the body. For e.g. the peritoneum is the mesothelial tissue that covers most of the organs in the abdominal cavity. The pericardium covers and protects the heart. The pleura is the membrane that surrounds the lungs and lines the wall of the chest cavity. The mesothelial tissue surrounding the male internal reproductive organs is called the tunica vaginalis testis. The tunica serosa uteri covers the internal reproductive organs in women.
What is Mesothelioma?
Now the next question that arises is what is Mesothelioma? Mesothelioma or the cancer of the mesothelium is a disease in which cells of the mesothelium become abnormal and divide without control or order. They can invade and damage nearby tissues and organs. Cancerous cells can also spread called metastasizing from their original place to other parts of the body. Most cases of Mesothelioma begin in the pleura or peritoneum, i.e. the lining surrounding the chest and the lungs.
In malignant Mesothelioma, which is a rare form of cancer, the cancerous or malignant cells are found in the sac lining the chest (the pleura), the lining of the abdominal cavity (the peritoneum) or the lining around the heart (the pericardium).
How do you get Mesothelioma?
The single largest cause of Mesothelioma is working with asbestos; it is a major risk factor for Mesothelioma. A history of asbestos exposure at work is reported in about 70 percent to 80 percent of all cases. However, there have been cases where Mesothelioma has been reported in some individuals without any known exposure to asbestos. Most people with malignant Mesothelioma have worked on jobs where they breathed asbestos. Others have been exposed to asbestos in a household environment, often without their knowledge.
What is Asbestos?
Asbestos is the name of a group of minerals that occur naturally as masses of strong, flexible fibers that can be separated into thin threads and woven. Asbestos has been widely used in many industrial products, including cement, brake linings, roof shingles, flooring products, textiles, and insulation. If tiny asbestos particles float in the air, especially during the manufacturing process, they may be inhaled or swallowed, and can cause serious health problems. In addition to Mesothelioma, exposure to asbestos increases the risk of lung cancer, asbestosis (a non cancerous, chronic lung ailment), and other cancers, such as those of the larynx and kidney.
The risk of asbestos-related disease increases with heavier exposure to asbestos and longer exposure time. There is some evidence that family members and others living with asbestos workers have an increased risk of developing Mesothelioma, and possibly other asbestos-related diseases. This risk may be the result of exposure to asbestos dust brought home on the clothing and hair of asbestos workers.
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