Mesothelioma (Malignant mesothelioma) or cancer of the mesothelium is a rare type of cancer that occurs in the thin layer of cells lining the body’s internal organ, known as the mesothelium. Mesothelium is a membrane that covers and protects most of the internal organs of the body. It’s composed two layers of cells: one layer immediately surrounds the organ, the other forms a sac around it. The mesothelium produces a lubricating fluid that is released between these layers, allowing moving organs (such as beating heart and the expanding and contracting lungs) to glide easily againts adjacent structure.
The cells on the mesothelium become abnormal and divide without control or order. They can invade and damage nearby tissues and organs. Its cancer cells can also spread or metastasize from their original site to other parts of the body. Most cases of mesothelioma begin in the pleura or peritoneum.
Working with asbestos is the major risk factor for mesothelioma. 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. Smoking doesn’t appear to increase the risk of mesothelioma, but the combination of the two (smoking and asbestos exposure) significantly increases a person’s risk of developing cancer of the air passageways in the lung.
There are three recognized types of mesothelioma :
- Pleural mesothelioma
- Peritoneal mesothelioma
- Pericardial mesothelioma