Mesothelioma is a form of cancer which occurs in the mesothelial cells that line the lung, chest cavity, abdominal cavity, heart cavity and the outer surface of most internal organs. Because asbestos fibers are smaller than airborne particles, they can puncture the lungs and become lodged in the pleura, and the irritation creates the change in the cells which causes the mesothelioma.

Although mesothelioma tumors can be benign (noncancerous), most cases are malignant (cancerous). Mesothelioma is primarily associated with asbestos exposure and can occur 20 to 60 years after the initial exposure. The most common symptoms include:

•back pain
•chest pain
•enlarged abdomen
•recurrent build-up of fluid in the lungs
•shortness of breath
•weight loss
Mesothelioma is an aggressive type of cancer. Unfortunately, the overall prognosis for patients with malignant mesothelioma remains poor. Treatment decisions are based on several different factors and may involve a combination of methods.

Often, by the time symptoms appear and a diagnosis is made, the disease is advanced. The average length of survival is around one to two years from diagnosis, and only about 7% of those diagnosed survive for five years or more. Research scientists and doctors, however, are pursuing several promising improvements in treatment

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