Mesothelium is the tissue that lines your stomach, heart and lungs. Mesothelioma is a form of cancer, also called malignant mesothelioma. Most of the time, mesothelioma will begin in your lungs, but it can also start in other organs or your abdomen.
Most people who have a mesothelioma diagnosis got it from inhaling asbestos particles. If you had a job working with asbestos, you have a higher likelihood of developing mesothelioma.
To diagnose mesothelioma, you will undergo a physical exam. Physicians use the exam and your health history to determine your disease risk before ordering a chest x-ray. In addition to an x-ray, physicians may order a CT scan for a detailed picture of your chest. Other diagnostic techniques may include surgical procedures that allow the doctor to view your chest.
Once diagnosed, your prognosis depends on the stage of cancer.
There are four stages of mesothelioma. In stage I, the cancer is isolated to the lining of the chest wall or the layers of tissue covering the lungs. In stage II, cancer may travel to the tissue that covers the lungs, organs or diaphragm. It may also spread to the lymph nodes.
In stage III, physicians can find cancer in the tissue between the ribs, soft tissues of the chest wall or sac around the heart. In stage III, cancer spreads through your chest. Once in stage IV, cancer can spread throughout your body to opposite areas.
Cancer can spread through your body via the lymph system or the blood. While metastatic tumors settle in different body areas, they are the same type of cancer as the original or primary tumor.