Malignant mesothelioma, a rare form of cancer, is a disease in which cancer (malignant) cells are found in the sac lining the chest (the pleura) or abdomen (the peritoneum). Most people with malignant mesothelioma have worked on jobs where they breathed asbestos.
Like most cancer, malignant mesothelioma is best treated when it is found (diagnosed) early. You should see your doctor if you have shortness of breath, pain in your chest, or pain or swelling in your abdomen. If you have symptoms, your doctor may order an x-ray of your chest or abdomen.
Your doctor may look inside your chest cavity with a special instrument called a thoracoscope. A cut will be made through your chest wall and the thoracoscope will be put into the chest between two ribs. This test, called thoracoscopy, is usually done in the hospital. Before the test, you will be given a local anesthetic (a drug that causes you to lose feeling for a short period of time). You may feel some pressure, but you usually do not feel pain.
Your doctor may also look inside your abdomen (peritoneoscopy) with a special tool called a peritoneoscope. The peritoneoscope is put into an opening made in the abdomen. This test is also usually done in the hospital. Before the test is done, you will be given local anesthetic.
If tissue that is not normal is found, your doctor will need to cut out a small piece and have it looked at under a microscope to see if there are any cancer cells. This is called a biopsy. Biopsies are usually done during the thoracoscopy or peritoneoscopy.
Your chance of recovery (prognosis) depends on the size of the cancer, where the cancer is, how far the cancer has spread, how the cancer cells look under the microscope, how the cancer responds to treatment, and your age.