Although the rate of mesothelioma diagnoses in the United States peaked in the 1990s, approximately 3,000 new cases are still diagnosed each year. And while mesothelioma is still relatively rare when compared to other kinds of cancer, it’s important to be able to identify all the causes and risk factors, so you can determine whether you may benefit from a lung cancer screening. 

What Is Mesothelioma?

Mesothelioma is an aggressive and rare form of cancer found in the lining surrounding the lungs, stomach and heart, caused by ingesting asbestos fibers. On average, the life expectancy of someone diagnosed with mesothelioma is one year. However, effective treatments and therapies can sometimes improve prognoses, if the cancer is caught early. 

Types of Mesothelioma

Pleural Mesothelioma

By far the most common type of mesothelioma, pleural mesothelioma is cancer that develops within the protective lining of the lungs, also known as the pleura.

Peritoneal Mesothelioma

Often misdiagnosed as a less life-threatening abdominal condition, peritoneal mesothelioma is cancer that develops in the abdomen, also known as the peritoneum.

Pericardial Mesothelioma

An extremely rare form of cancer, pericardial mesothelioma develops in the membrane that lines the heart, also known as the pericardium. 

What Causes Mesothelioma?

Mesothelioma almost always occurs in people exposed to asbestos in the workplace. Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral, often used in building materials including insulation, ceiling tiles, shingles and flooring. Sometimes during mining or construction, asbestos breaks apart, creating a cloud of particles. When you breathe in asbestos fibers, they can become trapped in your lungs. If these fibers damage cells in your body, it can lead to mesothelioma. It’s important to note that less than 5 percent of people who are exposed to asbestos will develop mesothelioma.

Mesothelioma Risk Factors

Several factors that may increase your risk of contracting mesothelioma include:

  • Personal history of asbestos exposure
  • Living with someone who works with or near asbestos
  • A family history of mesothelioma
  • Radiation therapy to the chest

If you’ve been exposed to asbestos or have any of these symptoms, see your Mercy doctor right away.

How to Prevent Mesothelioma

You should always wear protective gear and follow safety precautions when working with asbestos. It can take decades for mesothelioma to develop after asbestos exposure. Most people don’t discover they have mesothelioma until it’s already at an advanced stage, making a cure highly unlikely. But if you catch it early, you may benefit from treatment. If you or a loved one have or thinks they have been exposed to asbestos, please see your Mercy doctor immediately. 

Mesothelioma Signs & Symptoms

Signs and symptoms of pleural mesothelioma include: 

  • Persistent, painful coughing
  • Coughing up bloody fluid
  • Difficulty breathing, including shortness of breath or wheezing
  • Chest pain, especially under the rib cage
  • Lumps that form under the skin on your chest
  • Unexplained weight loss
Diagnosis & Treatment for Mesothelioma

If you’re experiencing symptoms of mesothelioma or have been exposed to asbestos, Mercy is here. Our expert care teams have the knowledge and advanced technology to diagnose and treat your cancer.

Learn about mesothelioma diagnosis & treatment options.

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