Mesothelioma (cancer of the mesothelium) is a form of cancer that develops in the cells of the mesothelium. The mesothelium is a membrane that covers and protects certain internal organs of the body, such as the lungs, heart and the stomach. The mesothelium produces a lubricating fluid that allows for a smooth movement for these tissues. Mesothelioma occurs when malignant (cancerous) cells are found in the mesothelium. Cells in the mesothelium may became abnormal and divide without any control. These cancerous cells may be found in the pleura (lining of the chest and lung), the peritoneum (the abdomen) and the pericardium (the space around the heart). Metastasizes occurs when cancer cells spread form the site from where they originated (in the case of mesothelioma from the mesothelium) to other parts of the body. These cells can invade and damage nearby tissues and organs. Mesothelioma is both a rare and aggressive form of cancer. Mesothelioma takes between 20 to 50 years to develop. Because of this it is the elderly that are usually the victims. Because it is a rare disease mesothelioma is usually difficult to diagnose and so to treat effectively.
The majority of cases of mesothelioma originate in the pleura or peritoneum. Pleural mesothelioma often originates within the chest cavity. It is a cancer of the lining of the lungs. Pleural mesothelioma is the most common type pf mesothelioma accounting to approximately 75% of all mesothelioma types. Peritoneal Mesothelioma originates in the abdomen and it is less common than pleural mesothelioma amounting to approximately 10% to 20% of all mesothelioma cancers. Another rare type of mesothelioma is pericardial mesothelioma where it originates in the lining of the heart.
Mesothelioma is mainly caused by exposure to asbestos. Such exposure usually happens on work sites where asbestos is used. Exposure can however occur in other situations. Family members of workers that work in an environment where asbestos is used are also at risk if the necessary precaution procedures are not taken by the worker. Adequate prevention may prevent mesothelioma cancer from developing. Workers should use protective equipment provided by their employers and follow recommended work practices and safety procedures. It is important that individuals that are exposed to asbestos on their workplace to wash themselves and change their working clothes before going home in order not to expose family members to dangerous asbestos particles.