What is Mesothelioma (and How Do You Pronounce It!)?

According to Dictionary.com, mesothelioma is pronounced mez-uh-thee-lee-oh-muh. It’s still a little tricky to say, even when you see it broken down! And, this $64 word carries an even pricier definition.

“A malignant [cancerous] tumor of the covering of the lung or the lining of the pleural and abdominal cavities often associated with exposure to asbestos.”

To put it simply, inhaling asbestos dust for extended periods of time can lead to cancer in the lungs and/or abdomen.

The mesothelioma, specifically, is a membrane that covers and protects most of your internal organs. It has two layers: the inner layer immediately surrounds the organ, while the second, or outer, layer forms a sac around it. It would be similar to wrapping a chicken breast in plastic wrap and then putting that in a zip-top bag.

The mesothelioma produces a lubricant of sorts that is released between its two layers. This allows other organs such as the heart and lungs to glide easily against nearby organs, bones, etc.

Sadly, it can take many years, if not decades, for any signs or symptoms of mesothelioma to appear. The most common form of mesothelioma attacks the pleura around the lungs. Common symptoms can include:

• Shortness of breath
• Wheezing, hoarseness and/or cough
• Pain in the chest (due to accumulation of fluid in the pleura around the lungs)
• Fatigue
• Anemia
• Coughing up blood

Abdominal mesothelioma symptoms can include:

• Weight loss
• Abdominal swelling (due to accumulation of fluid)
• Bowel obstruction
• Blood clotting abnormalities
• Anemia
• Fever

Left untreated or undiagnosed, mesothelioma can, like any cancer, spread to other parts of the body with symptoms that include pain, trouble swallowing or swelling of the neck and face.

As mentioned earlier, all of these symptoms of mesothelioma stem from extended exposure to asbestos. Due to its great heat-resistant and fire-retardant properties, asbestos was used quite heavily the in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Asbestos exposure could happen in just about every blue-collar industry such as oil refineries, construction sites, and automotive repair, just to name a few. Despite the fact that the government has since regulated acceptable asbestos exposure limits in the workplace, previous heavy exposure may still have left you at risk for developing mesothelioma at some point during your lifetime.

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