Pathophysiology: Mesothelioma is a cancer which affects the membrane lining of the lungs and abdomen. It is most commonly caused by exposure to asbestos. The most common anatomical site for mesothelioma is the pleura (the outer lining of the lungs and internal chest wall), but it can also arise in the peritoneum (the lining of the abdominal cavity), the pericardium (the sac that surrounds the heart), or the tunica vaginalis (a sac that surrounds the testis). Once fibers cause biological damage, the stage is set for the decades-long latency period for the development of malignant mesothelioma.
Signs & Symptoms: Mesothelioma signs may not appear until 20 to 50 years (or more) after exposure to asbestos. The most common symptoms of peritoneal mesothelioma are abdominal swelling and pain due to ascites (a buildup of fluid in the abdominal cavity). Other features may include weight loss, fever, night sweats, poor appetite, vomiting, constipation, and umbilical hernia. If the cancer has spread beyond the mesothelium to other parts of the body, symptoms may include pain, trouble swallowing, or swelling of the neck or face.
Statistics: From 1980 to 2010, 3,718 mesothelioma deaths occurred in Brazil, being 1,961 (52.74%) among men. Three deaths had no information about gender. The majority of deaths were concentrated in individuals within the age range of 50 years old or above (80.7%), especially between 60 and 69 years old (24%) and 70 and 79 years old (25%). During the initial period of the series, 296 deaths have occurred; and between the years of 2005-2010, 1,128 deaths have occurred ranging between 158 and 578 among men, and between 138 and 550 among women.