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Dr. Flemings
Mesothelioma is a tumor of the tissue lining the lungs, stomach, heart, and other organs. Mesothelioma can be benign, but in most cases, it's malignant. Captain Miller, what else can you tell us about mesothelioma?

Captain Miller
Well, Dr. Flemings, mesothelioma usually starts in the lungs, but it can also start in the abdomen or other organs.

Malignant mesothelioma is a rare but serious type of cancer. In the United States, people who get mesothelioma have worked on jobs where they inhaled asbestos particles. After being exposed to asbestos, it usually takes 20 years or more for malignant mesothelioma to form.

Asbestos is a mineral with needle-like fibers. When a person inhales asbestos, these needle-like fibers can embed themselves in the lungs, and over a long period of time, migrate to the pleural lining. The trapped fibers cause irritation and chronic inflammation, which can trigger genetic changes that turn cells cancerous. As cancer cells grow quickly and uncontrollably, they can form a sheath-like mass around the lung.

This can cause a number of symptoms, including:

  • Pain under the rib cage
  • Pain, swelling, or lumps in the abdomen
  • Trouble breathing, and
  • Weight loss for no known reason

It can sometimes be difficult to tell the difference between mesothelioma and lung cancer. Imaging tests, biopsy, and other laboratory tests can help make a mesothelioma diagnosis.

Malignant mesothelioma is often found when it is advanced, which makes it harder to treat. Depending on the type and stage of cancer, treatment options for malignant mesothelioma include:

  • Surgery
  • Radiation therapy
  • Chemotherapy, and
  • Targeted therapy