Mesothelioma is a diffuse, malignant tumor that usually affects the abdomen, lungs or heart. This type of cancer is often diagnosed late and is difficult to cure.

What is mesothelioma?

Mesothelioma is a rare type of cancer that occurs in the thin layer of tissue that covers most of the internal organs. See AbbreviationFinder for abbreviations related to Mesothelioma.

Mesothelioma is an aggressive and deadly form of cancer. While there are some treatment options, many people with mesothelioma have no hope of a cure. Doctors divide mesothelioma into two different types, depending on which part of the mesothelium is affected. In most cases, mesothelioma affects the tissues that line the lungs.

Other possible forms of mesothelioma affect tissue in the abdomen or genitals. Men are more likely to be affected by this type of cancer than women. In contrast to other forms, mesothelioma never occurs as a benign tumor and should not be confused with such more common forms in the chest area. They are exclusively malicious.


In general, cancer occurs when a series of genetic mutations set in within a cell, causing it to grow and multiply out of control.

It is not clear what causes the genetic mutation in mesothelioma. However, researchers have been able to identify possible factors that increase the risk of developing the disease. So it is very likely that the mutations are caused by a combination of several causes.

These include a congenital predisposition, the living environment, the state of health and the lifestyle. Exposure to asbestos has been recognized as an important risk factor. Long used for insulation, this mineral gives off a toxic dust when it becomes old and brittle or damaged. However, it should be noted that some people do not develop a disease even through long-term contact with asbestos, but other people very quickly.

Symptoms, Ailments & Signs

A mesothelioma can express itself differently depending on the severity and localization. One of the first symptoms is shortness of breath. In addition, chronic breathing difficulties and pathological breathing noises can occur. Those affected usually describe the noises as rattling or rattling, depending on the size and location of the tumor.

If the chest wall is involved or if the tumors irritate the intercostal nerves, chest pain may also occur. Rarely does a dry cough or high diaphragm occur. In addition, pleural cancer can be associated with fever, malaise, weight loss, and other general symptoms.

Thickening of the lung membrane or unilateral pleural effusions also indicate mesothelioma. In some cases, these reddish effusions, usually two to five centimeters in size, can be seen from the outside. The symptoms often develop insidiously. Years can pass between the first signs and a diagnosis.

The typical effusions in particular occur again and again, but are rarely attributed to pleural cancer. If left untreated, mesothelioma will metastasize to surrounding areas of the body. This can lead to organ damage, functional disorders of the respiratory tract and other complications, some of which are life-threatening. The most obvious sign of cancer progression is weight loss and the accumulation of various diseases.

Diagnosis & History

If symptoms of possible mesothelioma are present, the treating doctor will perform a physical exam, looking for lumps or other noticeable signs. He will then perform a series of other tests.

These usually include x-rays or computed tomography. Once the abnormalities have been located, more specific investigations follow to say with certainty what type of disease needs to be managed. A biopsy will probably be ordered. This is the removal and analysis of a piece of tissue taken from the affected region.

It is common to use a syringe that is inserted into the abdomen to remove fluid from the affected area. However, it is often necessary to open the chest a little to take samples and examine the regions more closely.


In most cases, mesothelioma leads to a significantly reduced life expectancy, since this cancer is usually very difficult to treat. Since it is diagnosed late, in many cases other regions of the body are also affected by the cancer and the affected person dies prematurely. The patients primarily suffer from severe breathing difficulties and pathological breathing noises.

The reduced supply of air also leads to fatigue and a greatly reduced resilience of the patient. Those affected also suffer from fever and chest pains as a result of mesothelioma. The formation of metastases leads to a strong loss of weight and a feeling of anxiety. It is not uncommon for mesothelioma to lead to depression and other mental disorders.

In most cases, mesothelioma cannot be cured. The complaints can only be limited to a small extent. If the tumor is detected early, it may be removed so that the affected person survives. Chemotherapy is also usually used, although in most cases this is associated with various side effects.

When should you go to the doctor?

People who suffer from a diffuse feeling of illness or malaise should consult a doctor. Since the diagnosis of mesothelioma is often made at a very late stage because the symptoms are difficult to assess by those affected, it is recommended that adults regularly take part in check-ups and check-ups.

Several years often elapse between the onset of the disease and the diagnosis. If you experience unwanted weight loss, increased tiredness or exhaustion, it is advisable to consult a doctor. In the case of shortness of breath or other breathing disorders, there is always cause for concern. A doctor should be consulted so that the cause can be determined in extensive tests.

Pain in the upper body, reduced performance and breathing noises must be examined and treated. Fever, dry cough or coughing up blood must be presented to a doctor. Sleep disturbances, mood swings and digestive disorders are further signs of an existing irregularity. Functional disorders or irregularities of the nervous system should be discussed with a doctor.

If the general resilience decreases, irritability occurs or if sporting activities can no longer be carried out as usual, a doctor should be consulted. Changes in the complexion, swelling on the upper body or bruising indicate a disorder in the organism that needs to be examined by a doctor. If the symptoms increase in intensity over months or years, a doctor is needed.

Treatment & Therapy

The type of treatment given depends on the patient’s medical condition, specific aspects of the tumor and the stage of development of the mesothelioma.

Unfortunately, a cure is impossible for the majority of affected patients. This has to do with the fact that mesothelioma is often only recognized at an advanced stage, when removal by surgery is no longer possible. Instead, damage limitation is practiced and a life with cancer is made possible. Goals and side effects of the treatments should be discussed individually.

There are patients who consider every possibility of healing, even if the chances are slim and the side effects are immense. Others want to live through the rest of their lives with as few symptoms as possible. In the early stages, mesothelioma can be removed and completely healed by surgery.

It is more likely that the tumor cannot be completely removed, but the painful symptoms of the disease can be reduced. Chemotherapy is usually used in combination to weaken the affected cells.


Since mesothelioma is usually recognized very late, it is often not possible to cure it. In this respect, the doctor treating you concentrates more on relieving the symptoms during aftercare. If mesothelioma is detected early, the tumor can still be surgically removed. In this case, the person affected can still survive. Chemotherapy is used in addition to surgical removal. However, this is associated with side effects such as nausea and vomiting.

Since the disease is often diagnosed late, other regions of the body are usually affected by the cancer. Mesothelioma significantly reduces the life expectancy of those affected. In most cases, cancer is very difficult to treat.

Those affected have a reduced air supply and suffer from permanent fatigue for this reason. Resilience is significantly reduced, which is why the help of family and friends becomes essential in everyday life. In many cases, sufferers develop severe depression and other mental illnesses. Professional, psychological support can help those affected to better accept how to deal with the situation.

Outlook & Forecast

The prognosis of cancer is unfavorable in most patients. It is a form of tumor formation that is considered aggressive and deadly. Within a short time, the cancer cells in the body spread through the bloodstream to various areas, where they lead to the formation of metastases. The challenge of the disease is early diagnosis. In most cases, the symptoms are only recognized in an advanced stage of the disease, since the growth of this tumor is extremely rapid. Complaints often arise, the patient consults a doctor and yet the progress of the disease is usually extremely pronounced within a few weeks or months.

To improve the prognosis, you should take part in the regularly offered medical check-ups and check-ups. Here, the disease can be detected early and thus cancer therapy and surgery can be initiated in the early stages. While these treatments are associated with numerous side effects, they are currently the only way to reduce symptoms and improve recovery.

Nevertheless, it must be taken into account that this aggressive cancer can lead to the formation of a new tumor at any time. Although freedom from symptoms is achieved, a malignant tissue change can show up again in the course of life.


The risk of developing mesothelioma increases with frequent contact with asbestos. To prevent this, it should be found out whether one often comes into contact with asbestos in one’s everyday life or work and try to avoid this contact. Professions with an increased risk of danger are: miners, factory workers, insulation craftsmen, shipbuilders, construction workers, car mechanics.

You can do that yourself

Unfortunately, in most cases of mesothelioma, those affected do not have any special options for self-help. Even treatment by a doctor can usually not completely heal the symptoms and the tumor, so that the person concerned eventually dies.

As with all other tumor diseases, the affected person should take it easy and not engage in heavy physical activities or sports. A healthy lifestyle with a healthy diet also has a positive effect on the disease and can alleviate the symptoms. Furthermore, the disease should always be discussed with close friends and family to avoid possible psychological problems or depression. In the case of children in particular, empathetic discussions are necessary. Since those affected are usually dependent on chemotherapy, they also need strong support from other people.

Mesothelioma can usually be prevented by avoiding exposure to asbestos. Above all, direct contact with the chemical must be avoided. Unfortunately, since this is not possible in all occupational groups, these groups are dependent on appropriate protective clothing in order to avoid the disease.

Mesothelioma Guide