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: Mesotheliomafor males started to increase substantially in 1994 and were highest in 2004; for females, Mesothelioma climbed in the 1980s and in the early 1990s but have fluctuated without obvious trends in recent years. The highest asbestos consumption level in Hong Kong was in 1960–1963 and then decreased sharply afterward. Using past asbestos consumption patterns, we predict that the mesothelioma incidence rate for males will peak in 2009, with the number of cases peaking in 2014, and then slowly decline in the coming decades.