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Mesothelioma is a rare form of cancer. It is used to describe a cancerous tumor which involves the mesothelial cells of an organ, usually the lungs or abdominal organs.

Mesothelioma Illustration

The most common type of mesothelioma is the pleural mesothelioma. The pleura is a thin membrane found between the lungs and the chest cavity. It provides a lubricated surface so that the lungs do not chafe against the chest walls. Thus, a pleural mesothelioma is often referred to as a “lung” cancer.

Peritoneal Mesothelioma

Another form of mesothelioma is the peritoneal mesothelioma. The peritoneum is the membrane that encloses the organs of the abdomen. While peritoneal mesothelioma is less common than pleural mesothelioma, it tends to be more invasive, and may thus result in a shorter life expectancy for the patient. Mesothelioma has also been found in the stomach and other abdominal organs.

Why Me?

A common question posed by persons afflicted with mesothelioma is, “Why did this disease develop in me?” The answer is nearly always the same-exposure to asbestos. When diagnosed in the United States, its onset is typically linked to a history of exposure to asbestos fiber. Asbestos is a mineral that was used for decades as a thermal insulation material. It has been widely known since the 1920’s that asbestos is a carcinogen, which means that it causes cancer in humans. However, asbestos was used as an insulator until the mid-1970’s, and is still present in massive quantities in many buildings today. Unfortunately, in many cases very little exposure is required to set this cancer in motion.

Damage on the lungs caused by asbestos

Mesothelioma Symptoms

Mesothelioma symptoms can be very general and therefore they are often ignored. In most cases, symptoms for this type of cancer arise 2 to 3 months before the cancer is found.

Management of mesothelioma depends largely on the staging of the tumor. Early diagnosis and surgical intervention may lengthen life expectancy. Depending on the age and physical condition of the patient, however, surgery may not be a viable option. In addition to surgical options, radiation treatment and chemotherapy may be helpful in the overall therapeutic program. Pain management and home care are typical alternatives in the later stages of the disease.

See below to learn about the respective symptoms of each type of mesothelioma.

Peritoneal mesothelioma symtoms include:

- Wight loss
- Vomiting
- Nausea
- Belly pain

Pleural mesothelioma symptoms include:

- Trouble swallowing
- Tireness
- Weight loss
- Progressive loss of appetite’
- Fluid in the ches cavity called “Pleural effusions”
- Pain at the side of the chest or the lower back
- Fever
- Difficulty sleeping
- Cough

Where Do I Go From Here?

After diagnosis, it is important to understand your treatment options. Your doctor or oncologist will provide you with information on the treatments that are available to you.

It is also important to know about your legal rights. If you have mesothelioma, or any other asbestos-related disease, you were most likely exposed to asbestos. Many of the manufacturers of asbestos insulation products knew for decades that asbestos was hazardous, yet made a business decision not to warn people of those hazards. As a result, you may have a right of recovery against those manufacturers, which can help defray the costs of treatment and provide compensation for your pain and suffering.

For information on the legal implications of mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases, please Contact Us.


Treatment options for mesothelioma include surgery, radiation therapy and chemotherapy. These treatments are sometimes combined.  Mesothelioma treatment depends on the location of the cancer, the stage of the disease and the patient’s age and general health.


A mesothelioma treatment used either to remove the tumor or to alleviate pain and suffering. If the cancer is relatively contained, surgery can be used to remove part of the lining of the chest or abdomen. The objective is to remove the cancer cells from the body by removing the tissues with large numbers of cancer cells. If the cancer has spread to several organs, it is impossible to remove all of the tissue infected with cancer. In this case, surgery can only be used to relieve pain and suffering.


This treatment consists of using drugs to treat the cancer. The drugs can be swallowed in pill form or can be injected by a needle into a vein or muscle. Most of the drugs used in the treatment of lung cancer either directly kill cancer cells or stop them from dividing into new cells. The drug enters the bloodstream and circulates throughout the body to reach and destroy the cancer cells. Chemotherapy targets the entire body and can kill normal cells as well as the diseased cells, causing severe side effects.


Radiation therapy is the use of high level radiation to kill cancer cells in a localized area. The radiation injures the cancer cells so they cannot divide or multiply further. With each treatment, more of the cells die and the tumor shrinks. The dead cells are broken down and excreted by the body. Most of the healthy cells are able to recover from this injury, but the damage to them is the cause for the side effects of radiation therapy.

Gene therapy

An experimental medical intervention that involves altering the patient’s genetic material of living cells to fight or prevent disease. The therapy involves injecting a modified gene directly into a patient’s chest cavity. The goal of gene therapy is to supply cells with healthy copies of missing or altered genes. Many different strategies are currently under study.


An experimental therapy that uses the body’s natural defenses to fight cancer. This can include stimulating your own immune system to work harder, or using an outside source, such as man-made immune system proteins. Immunotherapy is usually used in conjunction with another type of therapy.

Photodynamic Therapy

An experimental treatment which combines a photosensitizing agent (a drug activated by light) with a light source to destroy cancer cells. The theory is that the photosensitizing agent collects more readily in cancer cells than in normal cells. Thus, when the agent is subsequently exposed to light, it reacts with oxygen to create chemicals that can kill the cancer cells.

Specialized techniques may be used by your doctor to relieve symptoms and control pain, such as
thoracentesis and paracentesis.  During these precedures a needle or a thing tube is used to drain fluid that has built up in the chest or abdomen area.  Paracentesis is a procedure in which fluid is removed from the abdomen.  Removal of fluid from the chest is called Thoracentesis.  Drugs may also be administered through a tube by your doctor in order to prevent more fluid from accumulating.  Surgery and radiation therapy may also be helpful in relieving sumptoms.


Choosing a doctor that is right for you can make all the difference in your treatment experience. Below are doctors with national and international reputations for their work with mesothelioma patients.


Dr. Robert J. Cerfolionia

UAB Medical Center, The Kirklin Clinic

619 19th Street South

Birmingham, AL 35249

(205) 934-9999


Dr. David M. Jablons

Box 1674, UCSF

San Francisco, CA 94143-2674

Contact: (415) 885-3882

(205) 934-9999


Dr. Thierry Jahan

UCSF, Box 1705, Cancer Center 7th Fl.

San Francisco, CA 94143

Contact: (415) 353-9888


Dr. Mark Lischner

2 Medical Plaza, Suite 100

Roseville, CA 95661

Contact: (916) 786-7498

Dr. Robert Cameron

Dept. of Surgery, UCLA Medical School

Center for the Health Sciences, Rm 62-215

Box 951741

Los Angeles, CA 90095-2741

Contact: (310) 794-7333



Dr. Mark Cullen

135 College Street, Rm. 366

New Haven, CT 06510

Contact: (203) 785-6434


Washington, D.C.

Dr. Paul Sugarbaker

Sugarbaker Oncology Associates

Washington Cancer Institute CG-275

100 Irving Street, N.W

Washington, D.C. 20010

Contact: (202) 877-3908


Dr. Lary Robinson

H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center & Research Institute

12902 Magnolia Drive

Tampa, FL 33612

Contact: (813) 972-8412


Hedy Kindler, MD

5841 S. Maryland Ave.

MC 2115

Chicago, IL 60637

Contact: (773) 702-6149


Dr. Stephen C. Yang

The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine

601 North Caroline Street

Baltimore, Maryland 21287

Phone: (410) 614-3891



Dr. Elizabeth Healy Baldini

Brigham & Women’s Hospital

Radiation Oncology

75 Francis Street, ASB1-L2

Boston, MA 02115

Contact: (617) 732-6313

Dr. Jeanne M. Lukanich

Brigham & Women’s Hospital

Department of Surgery, Thoracic Surgery

75 Francis Street, ASB1-L2

Boston, MA 02115

Contact: (617) 732-5922


Dr. Arthur T. Skarin

Dana Farber Cancer Institute

44 Binney Street, D1234

Boston, MA 02115

Contact: (617) 632-3468


Dr. David J. Sugarbaker

Brigham & Women’s Hospital

Division of Thoracic Surgery

75 Francis Street

Boston, MA 02115

Contact: (617) 732-6824


Dr. Harvey Pass

Harper University Hospital

Wayne State University

3990 John Road, Suite 2102

Detroit, MI 48201

Contact: (313) 745-8746


Dr. Brian Loggie

Creighton University Medical Center

Wayne State University

Division of Surgical Oncology, Suite 3700

601 North 30th Street

Omaha, NE 68131

Contact: (402) 280-5009

New Mexico

Dr. Claire F. Verschraegen

University of New Mexico

900 Camino de Salud NE

Albuquerque, NM 87131

Contact: (505) 272-5837


New York

Dr. Valerie W. Rusch

Sloan Kettering Cancer Center

1275 York Ave

New York, NY 10021

Contact: (212) 639-5873

Dr. Mary Louise L. Keohan

161 Fort Washington Ave., Suite 910

New York, NY 10032

Contact: 212-305-0592 or 212-326-5511

Dr. Roman Perez-Soler

New York University

Kaplan Cancer Center

New York, NY 10019

Contact: (212) 263-8043

Dr. Robert Taub

161 Fort Washington Avenue

Herbert Irving 9-907

New York, NY 10032

Contact: (212) 305-6921

North Carolina

Dr. David H. Harpole, Jr.

DUMC Box 3617

3582 Duke Hospital South

Durham, NC 27710
Contact: (919) 668-8413



Dr. David Mason

The Cleveland Clinic

9500 Euclid Avenue

Cleveland, OH 44195

Phone: (216) 444-4053


Dr. Daniel Sterman

3600 Spruce St.

Philadelphia, PA 19104

Contact: (215) 614-0984

Dr. Larry Kaiser

University of Pennsylvania

4th Floor

Philadephia, PA 19104

Contact: (215) 662-7538


Dr. Spencer McCachren

Thompson Cancer Survival Center

1915 White Ave., 1st Floorr

Knoxville, TN 37916

Contact: (865) 541-2720


Dr. David Rice

Department of Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgery

The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center

1515 Holcombe Blvd., Box 445

Houston, Texas 77030

Phone: (713) 745-4530


W. Roy Smythe, MD

Professor and Chairman Department of Surgery

The Texas A&M University System Health Science Center

Scott and White Clinic

2401 South 31st Street

Temple, Texas 76508

E-mail: wrsmythe@swmail.sw.orG


Dr. Eric Vallieres

1959 NE Pacific Street

Seattle, WA 98195

Contact: (206) 548-4477

Asbestos-related Jobs

Occupations that deal with asbestos and which are often associated with the onset of mesothelioma later in life are as follows:


Building Engineers

Building Managers

Building Inspectors



Demolition Crews


Excavating machine operators

Floor Coverers

Former US Navy Personnel

Glass Factory Worker

Heavy Equipment Mechanics

Home Improvement



Die setters


Manufacturing Workers


Mixing Operatives

Gasket Manufacturing Workers


Paper Mill Workers



Pot Tenders

Protective Clothing Manufacturing

Rubber Worker



Steam Fitters



Tile Setters


Warehouse Worker





Asbestos has been used in association with a number of occupations in addition to those above. For instance, a number of former military personnel, particularly naval, came into contact with asbestos during their service. Massive amounts of asbestos were used in shipbuilding and commercial construction prior to the mid-1970’s. Anyone involved with those industries is at a higher risk for developing an asbestos-related disease, including mesothelioma. Exposure may have been direct or indirect, lengthy or brief. The typical exposure period is lengthy, but some persons with short, indirect exposure to asbestos develope mesothelioma.

Automotive Repair

Automotive Repair

Mesothelioma can also occur from non-occupational exposure, as evidenced by manifestation of the disease in women whose exposure came from washing the clothing of men (father, husband, son) who worked with, or araound, asbestos.

A unique feature of asbestos-related injuries is the long latency period between exposure to asbestos and the onset of the injury or disease. The latency period for mesothelioma is between 15 and 50 years, or more. That means that a person could have been exposed to asbestos years ago, and develop mesothelioma today. The average mesothelioma latency period is approximately 35 - 40 years.

Insulation Installation

Insulation Installation

According to the National Cancer Institute, approximately 3,000 new cases per year of malignant mesothelioma are being reported in the United States, and the incidence appears to be increasing. The disease is three times more common in men than in women. In men, the occurrence of mesothelioma is ten times higher in men between the ages of 60-70 as compared to men between the ages of 30-40. Occupational exposure to asbestos over the past fifty years in the United States is calculated to have occurred in approximately eight million people.

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