Malignant mesothelioma is a cancer of mesothelium. The mesothelium surrounds the lung and abdomen, allowing organs to slide past each other (like when the lungs expand and contact or the digestive system moves food through the intestines).

Two-thirds of mesothelioma cases diagnosed are pleural mesothelioma, or a cancer of the lining of the lungs. Most of the remaining cases are peritoneal mesothelioma, or a cancer of the lining of the abdomen. Mesothelioma can affect, however, the lining of the heart (or pericardium) or the lining of the reproductive organs.

Since it often takes between 20-30 years from the initial exposure for mesothelioma to develop, people with exposure to asbestos in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s are now being diagnosed. Because of mesothelioma’s aggressive nature, most patients with this rare cancer live only a short time. However, a wide variety of new treatments and procedures are constantly being researched and tested, and many of these have successfully extended and improved the lives of mesothelioma patients.

Malignant mesothelioma is a rare form of cancer and usually originates in the chest or abdomen areas.

Exposure to asbestos causes mesothelioma. It is important to note that there is no evidence regarding the necessary level of asbestos for a person to be exposed in order to develop mesothelioma. What is well-established is that people who end up with mesothelioma have had some type of previous exposure to asbestos.

In many industries, specialists focus on certain areas of practice, perhaps filling a common need or focusing on a unique situation. Plaintiffs’ attorneys who specialize in mesothelioma litigation and the other asbestos diseases focus on the needs of those who have suffered asbestos exposure. Asbestos lawsuits fall under an area of law sometimes referred to as toxic torts (torts being injuries). Just as you would seek out the opinion of an oncologist to treat cancer, when you’re seeking a lawyer for your mesothelioma lawsuit, it’s important you find an attorney experienced in asbestos litigation. Learn more about our asbestos experience, our mesothelioma attorneys, or get answers to common questions by contacting us at 800-916-4400 or

If you have any signs or symptoms that indicate you might have mesothelioma, your doctor should take a complete medical history to learn about your symptoms and possible risk factors, especially asbestos exposure.

If mesothelioma is a possibility, tests will be needed to make sure. A thorough physical examination, including a chest x-ray and lung function tests, may be recommended. The chest x-ray is currently the most common tool used to detect asbestos-related diseases. However, it is important to note that chest x-rays cannot detect asbestos fibers in the lungs, but they can help identify any early signs of lung disease resulting from asbestos exposure.

Studies have shown that computed tomography (CT)(a series of detailed pictures of areas inside. the body taken from different angles; the pictures are created by a computer linked to an x-ray machine) may be more effective than conventional chest x-rays at detecting asbestos-related lung abnormalities in individuals who have been exposed to asbestos. A lung biopsy, which detects microscopic asbestos fibers in pieces of lung tissue removed by surgery, is the most reliable test to confirm the presence of asbestos-related abnormalities. A bronchoscopy is a less invasive test than a biopsy and detects asbestos fibers in material that is rinsed out of the lungs. It is important to note that these tests cannot determine how much asbestos an individual may have been exposed to or whether disease will develop. Asbestos fibers can also be detected in urine, mucus, or feces, but these tests are not reliable for determining how much asbestos may be in an individuals lungs.

Some of the tests or procedures used to diagnose mesothelioma include:

*Chest X-ray
*Computed tomography (CT) scan
*Positron emission tomography (PET) scan
*Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan
*Blood tests
*Removing fluid for testing (thoracentesis, paracentesis, pericardiocentesis)
*Needle biopsies
*Endoscopic biopsies
*Open surgical biopsy
*Testing the samples in the lab
*DNA microarray analysis
*Electron microscopy
*Pulmonary function tests

Malignant mesothelioma:

A cancerous tumor of the mesothelium is called a malignant mesothelioma. Mesotheliomas can start in four main areas in the body.

Pleural mesotheliomas start in the chest. About 3 out of 4 mesotheliomas are pleural mesotheliomas.

Peritoneal mesotheliomas begin in the abdomen. They make up most of the remaining cases.

Pericardial mesotheliomas start in the covering around the heart and are very rare.

Mesotheliomas of the tunica vaginalis are very rare tumors that start in the covering layer of the testicles.

Malignant mesotheliomas can also be classified into three main types based on how the cells are arranged:

– About 50-60 percent of mesotheliomas are epithelioid. This type tends to have a better outlook (prognosis) than the other types.

– About 10-20 percent of mesotheliomas are sarcomatoid (fibrous).

– Mixed (biphasic) mesotheliomas have both epithelioid and sarcomatoid areas. They make up about 30-40 percent of mesotheliomas.

Benign tumors of the mesothelium:

Benign (non-cancerous) tumors can also start in the mesothelium. These tumors are typically removed by surgery, and there is often no need for additional treatment.

Localized fibrous tumor of the pleura:

This type of benign tumor can form in the pleura surrounding the lungs. It used to be called benign fibrous mesothelioma, but doctors now know that this tumor actually starts from tissue under the mesothelium and not from mesothelial cells. This disease is usually benign, but about 1 in 10 are cancerous. A similar condition that starts in the peritoneum is called solitary fibrous tumor of the peritoneum.

Adenomatoid mesothelioma:

This benign tumor can develop in the mesothelium of certain reproductive organs. In men, it often starts in the epididymis (ducts that carry sperm cells out of the testicle). In women, this tumor may begin in the fallopian tubes (tubes that carry eggs from the ovaries to the uterus).

Benign cystic mesothelioma:

This rare non-cancerous tumor often begins in the peritoneum.

(Source: American Cancer Society)

The following are some of the various treatments for mesothelioma. This information has been compiled for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. Visitors with medical questions should promptly consult with a physician licensed in their state of residence.


Surgery is sometimes offered to victims of mesothelioma and is often a consideration for victims of lung cancer and other asbestos-related cancers. With respect to mesothelioma and lung cancer, there are at least three major operations that many of our clients have undergone: lobectomy, pneumonectomy and extrapleural pneumonectomy. The goal of all three operations is to surgically resect (cut out) the cancerous tissues. A lobectomy is the surgical removal of one or more lobes of the lung. A pneumonectomy entails the removal of the entire lung. An extrapleural pneumonectomy involves the removal of an entire lung, as well as portions of the pleura and diaphragm. There are eligibility criteria for each operation which you need to discuss with your physician. Some of the criteria considered by physicians in determining eligibility for these surgeries include pulmonary function reserve, cell type of the cancer, staging (progression) of the cancer and other treatment received to date. Results of surgery, offered alone or in conjunction with other therapy, varies widely.


The goal of radiation therapy is to kill cancerous cells and shrink tumors. Radiation therapy is offered in two forms: external radiation therapy and internal radiation therapy. External radiation therapy, which is the most common form of radiation therapy, involves precise application of radiation to the specific cancerous organs and surrounding tissues from an external machine. Internal radiation therapy entails the insertion of radioactive isotopes directly in the body through a surgical procedure. Radiation is sometimes offered to mesothelioma patients in an attempt to control pain. This type of radiation therapy is known as palliative radiation.


Chemotherapy, in contrast to radiation therapy, is a systemic treatment in that the chemotherapy drugs circulate throughout the entire body with the goal of killing cancer cells. Chemotherapy is sometimes prescribed by injection or by oral administration. Chemotherapy comes in a wide array of forms and treatment protocols, some of which are still considered experimental or radical. Similar to internal radiation therapy, described above, chemotherapy is sometimes implanted directly in the chest and/or pleura. Chemotherapy is sometimes prescribed in conjunction with radiation therapy or offered alone.

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