Mesothelioma is a rare type of cancer caused by asbestos exposure that affects the lining surrounding internal organs in the body. There are three types of mesothelioma. The most common, accounting for about 70% of cases, is pleural mesothelioma that affects the lining surrounding the lungs and internal chest cavity. Mesothelioma can also affect the peritoneum (the lining of the abdominal cavity) and the pericardium (the lining surrounding the heart).
Mesothelioma is not lung cancer. Lung cancer affects the inside of the actual lung, while mesothelioma affects the lining that surrounds the lungs or other internal organs. Mesothelioma is caused by exposure to asbestos, a naturally occurring compound that was used in many construction materials and consumer products in the 1940s through 1970s. People may have been exposed to asbestos at work, during military service, at home, and at school.
Symptoms of mesothelioma are similar to those presented from other more common diseases and may not appear until decades after exposure. If you know you have been exposed to asbestos and are experiencing symptoms, seek medical care and tell your doctor about your asbestos exposure. Your doctor will conduct physical exams and tests to rule out more common illnesses like tuberculosis, and will not diagnose mesothelioma until biopsy results and pathology reports conclusively show the cancer. Treatment options will be discussed and determined with you.