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What is Mesothelioma?

Although uncommon, malignant mesothelioma is no longer considered as rare as it once was. Usually caused by prolonged exposure to asbestos, mesothelioma is a form of cancer that begins in the layer of specialized cells known as mesothelial cells. These cells form a protective layer around organs so they can move around in your body without resistance. To speak with our team of medical professionals and learn more about mesothelioma, or if you would like to request an appointment, contact us today.

While the incidence of mesothelioma remains low (approximately 14 cases per one million people), the number has increased in males three fold between 1970 and 1984 because of exposure to asbestos.

Experts at the Florida Hospital Cancer Institute (FHCI) are well equipped to identify mesothelioma. Once diagnosed, a coordinated and knowledgeable team of specialists, nurses, social workers and support staff will formulate a treatment plan that offers the most positive outcome possible, while giving you the information you need to make informed decisions about your own care.

As part of your regimen of care, you may be offered access to groundbreaking clinical trials of new treatments, therapies and techniques that may offer promise in controlling mesothelioma. As a leading research institution with an international reputation for excellence, the FHCI regularly conducts clinical trials that access. Advances in medicine are coming out of some of the most well respected research institutions in the country and the FHCI is at the forefront of exploring these new approaches.

Whatever stage your disease is in, you can count on the Florida Hospital Cancer Institute to provide you with the most accurate diagnostic tools, state-of-the-art therapies and access to the latest advances in medical science.

To speak with our team of medical professionals and learn more about mesothelioma, or if you would like to request an appointment, contact us today.

Mesothelioma Symptoms

The symptoms of mesothelioma are often similar to those of other less serious diseases. For instance, the symptoms of pleural mesothelioma can often be mistaken for influenza or pneumonia. Conversely, symptoms of pericardial mesothelioma can be similar to that of other cardiac conditions.

If you have a history of exposure to asbestos and have any of the following symptoms, you should see your doctor and discuss your concerns. Even if you have no noticeable symptoms yet, your doctor may want to have you undergo regular chest x-rays or other tests to monitor your condition.

Symptoms vary by the type of mesothelioma you have.

Pleural mesothelioma symptoms

Approximately two thirds of all mesothelioma cases begin in the pleural lining of the lungs.

  • A persistent dry or raspy cough
  • Coughing up blood
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Night sweats
  • Fever
  • Fatigue
  • An unexplained weight loss of 10% or more
  • Shortness of breath, even at rest
  • Lumps under the skin on the chest

Pericardial mesothelioma symptoms

Accounting for less than 5% of all cases, this form of cancer begins in the lining of the heart. Because it is so rare, it is the most difficult form of mesothelioma to diagnose and treat.

  • Heart palpitations or an irregular heartbeat
  • Chest pains
  • Difficulty breathing, even at rest
  • Fever
  • Night sweats
  • Generalized fatigue

To speak with our team of medical professionals and learn more about the symptoms of mesothelioma, or if you would like to request an appointment, contact us today.

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Causes of Mesothelioma

By far, the majority of cases (approximately 80 to 90%) are due to extended exposure to asbestos. While asbestos is a natural occurring fibrous substance, its extensive use in manufacturing until the mid 1970s exposed millions of workers unknowingly to asbestos fibers.

Often, symptoms don't show up until later in life. So, those exposed to asbestos in their workplace will want to be more proactive in seeing a doctor regularly. If you are diagnosed with mesothelioma, the professionals at the Florida Hospital Cancer Institute's Mesothelioma Clinic will be happy to discuss treatment options with you and provide more rigorous testing to determine the extent and stage of the disease.

To speak with our team of medical professionals and learn more about the causes of mesothelioma, or if you would like to request an appointment, contact us today.

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Diagnosing Mesothelioma

Because mesothelioma may have no symptoms until the later stages, it's imperative that you have regular checkups with your doctor. Depending on your family history, work history and examinations, you may be advised to have more extensive testing at the Florida Hospital Cancer Institute (FHCI).

Some of the tests and procedures used include:

  • Physical Exam: During a routine exam your doctor can check your general health as well as signs of disease. Your family history and work history will also prove valuable, especially if you have worked with asbestos or have had a history of certain illnesses.
  • Chest x-ray: A radiographic test that uses a small amount of radiation to take a "picture" that looks at the structures in your chest.  Initial signs of mesothelioma may be visible the chest X-ray. 
  • CT (Computed Tomography) Scan: A series of more detailed pictures or images are made of the chest.  The presence of mesothelioma, as well as other abnormalities in the chest may be identified.
  • Biopsy: Cells or tissue is removed from the pleura or peritoneum so they can be reviewed under a microscope by a pathologist for signs of cancer. Procedures used to collect this material includes:
    • Fine-needle (FNA) aspiration biopsy of the lung - a small incision is made in the skin so the biopsy needle can be inserted directly into the abnormal tissue or fluid.
    • Thorascopy - a small incision is made between two ribs and a thorascope is inserted into the chest so the surgeon can view the area directly and remove tissue if needed.  
    • Thoracotomy - An incision made between two ribs allow doctors to check the inside of the chest area for signs of the disease.
  • Bronchoscopy: A bronchoscope is inserted through the nose or mouth and into the trachea and lungs. The scope not only allows the oncologist to view the area in real time on a monitor, but retrieve tissue that can be examined further in the lab for signs of cancer.
  • Cytologic exam: Fluid that is taken from around the lungs or from the abdomen is examined under a microscope to see if there are signs of abnormalities that may indicate mesothelioma.

To speak with our team of medical professionals and learn more about prevention through early diagnosis of mesothelioma, or if you would like to request an appointment, contact us today.

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Mesothelioma Staging

Staging mesothelioma can be complex. However, the professionals at FHCI are skilled in staging methodologies and can accurately stage your cancer so a treatment plan can be developed.

Stage I Mesothelioma: Mesothelioma is in the right or left pleura and may have spread to the lung, the pericardium or diaphragm on the same side. The lymph nodes are not involved.

Stage II Mesothelioma: The cancer has spread from the pleura on one side to lymph nodes next to the lung on the same side. It may have also spread into the lung, pericardium or diaphragm on the same side.

Stage III Mesothelioma: Mesothelioma has spread to the chest wall, muscle, ribs, heart, esophagus or other organs in the chest on the same side. It may or may not have spread to the lymph nodes on the same side as the primary tumor.

Stage IV Mesothelioma: The disease has spread into the lymph nodes in the chest on the side opposite of the primary tumor or extends to the pleura or lung on the opposite side. It can also extend directly into organs in the abdominal cavity or neck. Any distant metastases are included in this stage.

To speak with our team of medical professionals and learn more about staging mesothelioma, or if you would like to request an appointment, contact us today.

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