Malignant mesothelioma is an aggressive and deadly form of cancer that occurs in the thin layers surrounding the majority of a person’s internal organs. People who have worked around asbestos, such as in construction jobs, are most at risk.

Pleural mesothelioma is the most common form of the disease and develops in the lining of the lungs, and accounts for 75% of all cases. Nearly 3,000 people are diagnosed with this form each year – many contract the disease as a result of negligence by their employer.

How to recognize the signs of mesothelioma

While treatments for mesothelioma have improved drastically, life expectancy for patients ranges from 12 to 21 months, depending upon whether the cancer was diagnosed in the early or late stages. Symptoms of the four types include:

  • Pleural: Asbestos is the most common cause after fibers are caught in your lungs. Those with the disease often feel pain in their chest when they cough or have unexplained weight loss or shortness of breath. Some also develop lumps under the skin on their chest.
  • Peritoneal: This type of the disease occurs in the abdomen region and accounts for 15% to 20% of all cases. Signs of the disease usually include swelling or pain in the belly, weight loss and lumps developing below the skin. It can be caused by swallowing asbestos fibers.
  • Pericardial: Only 1% of mesothelioma cases occur in the sac of tissue surrounding the heart, which is called the pericardium. People with this form often experience chest pain and heart palpitations, and some feel short of breath or have a chronic cough. Doctors are unsure of the cause.
  • Testicular: This form of mesothelioma is extremely rare, with only a few hundred cases reported. There are no standard symptoms, but the one seen most often is a painful mass on the scrotum area. It happens in men between 55 and 75 years old and is possibly linked to asbestos exposure.

What treatments are available?

Surgery is possible for treating mesothelioma in the lungs, heart and abdomen if the disease is caught in the early stages. Patients may also undergo chemo or radiation treatments. There is no standard way to treat mesothelioma in the testicles since the form is rare and not understood.