Malignant Mesothelioma

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Malignant mesothelioma is a devastating diagnosis. But you're not alone. At UVA Health, you'll find experts in this type of cancer. You'll have extensive resources to help you and your family guide you.

Malignant Mesothelioma Treatment at UVA Health

At UVA Health, you'll have a whole team dedicated to your care. You won't find a higher level of care. We are proud to be Virginia's first Comprehensive Cancer Center. Only elite cancer centers earn this title from the National Cancer Institute.

We usually treat mesothelioma with:

  • Chemotherapy
  • Radiation
  • Surgery

What Causes It?

Mesothelioma grows in the thin layers of tissue that line your chest cavity and cover the lungs.

Causes include:

  • Repeated exposure to asbestos fibers
  • Living with a person who works near exposed asbestos fibers
  • Exposure to other industrial fibers
  • Exposure to ionizing radiation

Symptoms of Malignant Mesothelioma

This cancer can take up to 20-40 years to develop. Early signs include:

  • Trouble breathing
  • Long-lasting cough
  • Pain under the rib cage or in the abdomen
  • Pain while breathing
  • Weight loss and fatigue

To diagnose your condition, we'll need to perform tests like:

  • Chest X-ray
  • CT scan
  • MRI
  • Positron emission tomography (PET) scan
  • Blood tests
  • Biopsy: fine-needle aspiration biopsy; thoracoscopy; thoracotomy; laparotomy; open biopsy

Avoiding Asbestos

The only known way to prevent this cancer is to avoid asbestos or other fibers. Asbestos shows up in old building insulation, roofing materials and tiles. People at risk of asbestos exposure at work include:

  • Miners
  • Factory workers
  • Insulation workers
  • Railroad workers
  • Ship builders
  • Makers of gas masks
  • Construction workers

Family members of workers can also get this cancer. Workers can bring asbestos fibers home. This type of exposure is just as dangerous.

To avoid exposure to asbestos:

  • Use proper safety equipment and precautions at work
  • Follow safety measures to avoid bringing asbestos dust home on your clothing
  • Make sure experts check areas of exposed asbestos
  • Seal off or remove exposed areas
  • Don't remove asbestos without proper training