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Living with Mesothelioma: What You Need to Know

What is Mesothelioma?

Malignant mesothelioma is a rare, asbestos-related cancer that forms on the thin protective tissues that cover the lungs and abdomen. Cases in the United States still average to be about 3,000 cases per year. There are three types of mesothelioma which are Pleural Mesothelioma, Peritoneal Mesothelioma, and Pericardial Mesothelioma.

Pleural Mesothelioma

This is the most common form of mesothelioma. It develops in the tissue covering the lungs. The best way to treat this type of mesothelioma is with a multimodal approach. Symptoms include a dry cough, shortness of breath, painful breathing, pain in lower back or ribs, weight loss, fatigue. Multimodal Therapy combines more than one method of cancer treatment. Surgery with chemotherapy and radiation therapy is the most common combination of treatments.

Peritoneal Mesothelioma

This form of mesothelioma accounts for less than 20 percent of all reported cases. Cancer develops on the lining surrounding the abdomen. Symptoms include abdominal pain, diarrhea or constipation, loss of appetite, weight loss, nausea, fatigue, and anemia. The best combination of treatment includes surgery and heated chemotherapy. Survivors of this type of mesothelioma generally live about four times longer than those with Pleural mesothelioma.

Pericardial Mesothelioma

This is the rarest form of mesothelioma. Cancer develops in the soft tissue surrounding the heart. Symptoms include difficulty breathing, fatigue, cough, chest pain, fever, and heart palpitations or irregular heartbeat. The way to treat this form of mesothelioma is with a multimodal approach. The best combination of treatments includes surgery, chemotherapy, and palliative treatments.

What Happens After Treatment?

For many patients diagnosed with any form of mesothelioma, cancer never completely goes away. Often, patients must follow a treatment routine to keep this disease under control. Follow up appointments with doctors and specialist are imperative for successful post-treatment life. Doctors will often order CT and PET scans. Visits should be fairly often, normally every three to four months.

Why should you seek Support?

Seeking out a support group can help patients continue to stay positive while going the hardships during treatment or recurrences. These groups are important not only keep a patient positive but because support groups can reduce the stress of diagnosis, provide inspiration and hope, offer comfort and acceptance, give a sense of community, and are empathetic. Support groups are hard to come by because mesothelioma is such a rare disease. Most support group meeting are held on the internet and via conference calls because patients are spread throughout the United States. Since a mesothelioma diagnosis is so rare, it can difficult at times to find a support group.

Mesothelioma Support Foundations and Groups

As stated before, mesothelioma support groups and foundations are hard to come by. Here are a few foundations and groups and what they do:

The Meso Foundation is a non-profit organization focused on ending mesothelioma.
The International Interest Group is an independent group of scientists focused on expanding research, developing cures, and finding treatment solutions.
Canadian Mesothelioma Foundation is a private, invite-only online support groups for patients, caregivers, family, and the bereaved.