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Epithelial Mesothelioma Cancer

Epithelial mesothelioma is a rare and deadly form of cancer affects the membrane lining the chest cavity, heart, lungs and abdominal cavity. There are three forms of epithelial mesothelioma: the most common, pleural mesothelioma; the second most common, peritoneal mesothelioma (accounting for only a quarter of the cases) and the rarest form, pericardial mesothelioma.

The vast majority of epithelial mesothelioma cases are the result of asbestos exposure. Indeed, one of the most frustrating aspects of this type of cancer is that patients who develop it were generally exposed 15 to 40 years before hand, which often makes the time and place the disease was contracted difficult to determine.

The early symptoms of epithelial mesothelioma are subtle and somewhat general. Shortness of breath and chest pain are the most common early symptoms. It is because these symptoms are so generic that epithelial mesothelioma is rarely detected early on. Usually when its discovered it is already in an advanced stage and treatment options, particularly localized options such as surgery, are somewhat limited.

If the cancer is in a less advanced stage, aggressive surgery treatments can be sought. Aggressive treatments are treatments aimed at curing the mesothelioma or at least increasing the patients longevity. In some cases an extrapleural pneumonectomy can be performed to try to stop the spread of the mesothelioma.

However this operation is risky and many medical centers will not perform it because of its high mortality rate. Additionally this procedure involves removing an entire lung, as well as extensive epithelial tissue, thereby reducing the patients breathing capacity in half. Even when it is successful it rarely eliminates the mesothelioma, but rather only slows its progress.

Palliative surgery (surgery only aimed at alleviating symptoms) is an option at any stage of the disease. Usually this comes in the form of a "fine needle aspiration" or pleural tap. A pleural tap involves injecting a long needle into the chest or abdomen cavity and draining the pleural space of fluid build up. This procedure may greatly reduces symptoms associated with mesothelioma.

Radiation therapy and chemotherapy are other options. Both are systemic treatments and have the draw back of affecting surrounding tissues as well as cancerous tissues. Radiation therapy is often used in combination with surgery treatments as a way of attempting to remove cancerous growth that could not be removed through surgery. Chemotherapy still has not proved very effective against epithelial mesothelioma but doctors and researcher continue to experiment with new techniques.


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