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: The study included 717 men, aged between 32 and 93 years (mean 68.7, median 69.0), and 94 women aged between 40 and 93 years (mean 73.2, median 73.0) [Table 1]. The patients had worked in a variety of workplaces, most frequently in shipyards [Table 2]. In 79 cases (57 men and 22 women), occupational data was insufficient. Thirty-four women reported history of domestic exposure to asbestos. They had cleaned the work clothes of their family members who had been occupationally exposed.