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Your guide to mesothelioma

January 24, 2022 Posted in: Blogs , English


What’s the first thing you think of when you hear the word “mesothelioma”? If you had cable in the early 2000s, you might think of commercials advising people with mesothelioma about the compensation they could receive due to asbestos exposure. But what exactly is mesothelioma, and what options do you have after diagnosis?

We’re here to answer your questions and guide you through understanding mesothelioma’s types, symptoms, and the new immunotherapy treatments at the Mesothelioma Treatment Center at Baylor St. Luke’s Medical Center

What is mesothelioma?

Mesothelioma is an aggressive and often deadly form of lung cancer that starts in the cells of the mesothelium—the thin tissue forming the outer layer of specific organs. These mesothelial cells that make up the lining in your abdomen, chest, and around your heart are specialized to provide protection by producing lubricating fluids that allow your organs to slide against one another.

Tumors that form within the mesothelium can be either cancerous or benign. Malignant mesothelioma, often just shortened to mesothelioma, grows in four different parts of the body’s mesothelial cells.

The two most common forms of mesothelioma are:

  • Pleural mesothelioma. The most common form of mesothelioma, which grows on the lining of the lungs. Pleural mesothelioma makes up around every 3 out of 4 cases. 
  • Peritoneal mesothelioma. This type of mesothelioma occurs in the abdomen. It’s the second most common, making up most of the remaining cases.

The last two types of mesothelioma are incredibly rare.

  • Pericardial mesothelioma. These are mesotheliomas growing around the lining of the heart.
  • Mesotheliomas of the tunica vaginalis. These are growths in the lining of the testicles.

What are mesothelioma symptoms?

The symptoms of mesothelioma will vary depending on where the cancer is growing. Most symptoms that indicate mesothelioma are common for other conditions. For example, the symptoms of pleural mesothelioma—the most common form found in the lining of the lungs—include:

  • Dry cough
  • Wheezing
  • Fatigue

Due to mesothelioma’s rarity and its symptoms’ similarity to many other conditions, seeing an oncologist with experience with mesothelioma is an important step of diagnosis and treatment.

What are the options for mesothelioma treatment?

Specialists at the Mesothelioma Treatment Center at Baylor St. Luke’s Medical Center offer robust and leading-edge treatments for this condition.

Dr. Bryan Burt, a general thoracic surgeon and thoracic surgical oncologist, has a special interest in immunologic determinants of pleural mesothelioma and non-small cell lung cancer.

What are immunologic determinants? Immunologic determinants are the factors in your immune system that might make you more    susceptible to different types of cancer, such as pleural mesothelioma. Dr. Burt is interested in determining those potential factors.

Dr. Burt’s primary focus in treating mesothelioma is developing innovative surgical techniques that provide patients with shorter recovery times. His current research is to determine if different immunotherapy treatments would be more effective when used together or on their own in combination with surgery, a truly novel therapeutic question in the research of mesothelioma treatment.

How are asbestos exposure and mesothelioma development related?

Mesothelioma is overwhelmingly caused by exposure to asbestos, a mineral once used in buildings because it added strength to structures and aided in fire-proofing. Mesothelioma typically occurs 20-50 years after initial, long-term exposure to asbestos. The people who are at the highest risk for developing this cancer include:

  • Veterans
  • Miners
  • Firefighters
  • HVAC workers
  • Construction workers
  • Chimney sweeps
  • Auto mechanics
  • Textile mill workers
  • Family members of these workers

Some people have developed mesothelioma due to second-hand exposure to asbestos. If a family member was exposed to asbestos, the mineral could’ve been brought into the home.

If you have reason to believe that you might have been exposed to asbestos or that you are at risk for mesothelioma, contact an oncologist who specializes in its treatment. At our Mesothelioma Treatment Center at Baylor St. Luke’s Medical Center, our nationally-ranked oncologists—in partnership with Baylor College Medicine—will provide you with comprehensive, collaborative care. If you have mesothelioma, schedule an appointment with one of our oncologists today.



American Cancer Society | What Is Malignant Mesothelioma?
American Lung Association | Mesothelioma | Mesothelioma | Researchers Study New Immunotherapy Combination for Mesothelioma


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