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: There were 2,538 mesothelioma deaths in Great Britain in 2013, a similar number to the 2,548 deaths in 2012, but substantially higher than the 2,312 deaths in 2011.The latest projections suggest that there will continue to be around 2,500 deaths per year for the rest of this current decade before annual numbers begin to decline. The continuing increase in annual mesothelioma deaths in recent years has been driven mainly by deaths among those aged 75 and above. In 2013 there were 2,123 male deaths and 415 female deaths.