By: Jackie Clark
Mesothelioma is a rare and usually fatal form of cancer that develops in the mesothelium, or the protective lining that covers many internal organs of the body, with the lungs being the most common site. About 70% of cases are pleural mesothelioma, in the lining of the lungs. However, in children, the cancer often occurs in the lining of the abdominal cavity, also known as peritoneal mesothelioma.
The main cause of the disease is exposure to asbestos in the immediate surroundings, especially in old homes that were constructed with asbestos-containing building material. Many experts believe that children may have contracted mesothelioma by secondary means, through inhalation of fibers from the clothing of an adult family member who has been exposed to asbestos, especially at their job site. Moreover, since the symptoms of mesothelioma usually take many years to develop and there is no immunization to prevent mesothelioma, experts believe that children may have acquired it through heredity or prenatal exposure.
Symptoms include shortness of breath because of the presence of fluid in the lungs, chest or abdominal pain, and weight loss. In children, the most common site of this type of cancer is in the abdominal area, but it can also be present in the lungs. Diagnosis is performed initially through chest x-ray and CT scan, while biopsy and microscopic examination used to confirm the presence of mesothelioma.
Early detection, the size and the location of the tumor will affect the prognosis and rate of survival. On average, about 20% of patients with mesothelioma will survive longer than five years after diagnosis.
When not promptly treated after diagnosis, the tumor will spread to other parts of the body, although it does not typically spread to the brain, bones or adrenal glands. In the lungs, the tumor is often found on only one side. In more severe cases, the patient can develop tumor masses.
Unfortunately, mesothelioma prognosis is rarely favorable, mainly because symptoms are usually discovered late in its development, beyond the critical early stage, after which successful treatment becomes very difficult. For example, tumors affecting the abdominal cavity often do not manifest symptoms until after the latent stage. These symptoms include abdominal pain, abnormal buildup of fluid in the abdomen, bowel movement problems, mass in the abdomen, blood clots, and weight loss.
Chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and surgery are all possible treatments for mesothelioma, but none of them has been entirely successful in eradicating the condition. These treatments have only been effective in increasing the patient’s life expectancy. A patient may improve prognosis through healthy dieting, regular exercise, and alternative therapies. A recent study showed that treatment of mesothelioma in children with the chemotherapy drug cisplatin was both safe and effective.
About the Author:
Jackie joined the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance in 2005 as research assistance after graduating with a bachelor’s degree in English with a specialty in technical and medical research. Since then, Jackie has grown to oversee all web content production and authoritative processes, including the esteemed HONcode accreditation for reliable and verified health information on the web. Jackie supervises a team of medical writers and produces much of the website’s content for mesothelioma cancer awareness and outreach efforts. You can contact Jackie through her twitter account, http://twitter.com/#!/JakieClrk.