NORD gratefully acknowledges Joseph R. Testa, Ph.D., FACMG, Carol & Kenneth Weg Chair in Human Genetics, Cancer Biology Program Co-Leader, Genomics Facility Director, Fox Chase Cancer Center, for assistance in the preparation of this report.
Mesothelioma is a rare form of cancer that affects the cells that make up the mesothelium. The mesothelium is the lining or membrane that covers and protects various internal organs of the body. The mesothelium is composed of two layers of specialized cells known as mesothelial cells. One layer directly surrounds an organ; the other forms a protective sacs around thoracic and peritoneal organs. The most common form of mesothelioma affects the pleura, which is the membrane or sac that lines the lungs and chest cavity. Other common sites include the peritoneum, which is the membrane lining the abdominal cavity, and the pericardium, which is the membrane lining the heart (heart sac). Mesothelial tissue is also found in other areas of the body including the membrane covering the testicles (tunica vaginalis). The disorder most often occurs in older adults. Mesothelioma is often an aggressive form of cancer. Treatments are available, but are not effective for everyone.
The term "cancer"refers to a group of diseases characterized by abnormal, uncontrolled cellular growth (e.g., mesothelial cells) that invades surrounding tissues and may spread (metastasize) to distant bodily tissues or organs via the bloodstream, the lymphatic system, or other means. Different forms of cancer, including mesothelioma, may be classified based upon the cell type involved, the specific nature of the malignancy, the tissues or organs affected, and the disease's clinical course. Symptoms of mesothelioma vary depending upon the location, type and stage of the cancer. Approximately 70 to 90% of cases of mesothelioma result from exposure to asbestos. Symptoms of mesothelioma may not appear until up to 30 to 50 years after initial exposure to asbestos. However, after symptoms become apparent, mesothelioma may rapidly progress to cause life-threatening complications.
Please note that some of these organizations may provide information concerning certain conditions potentially associated with this disorder.
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