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What Types of Cancer Are Caused By Asbestos Exposure?

Asbestos exposure can cause many different types of cancer, including throat, colorectal and lung cancer; however, it is most commonly associated with mesothelioma. Mesothelioma is a malignant form of cancer that affects the protective lining of the lungs, heart or abdomen.

Asbestos manufacturers have faced hundreds of lawsuits for knowingly exposing workers and their families to this harmful mineral. If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with mesothelioma, you may have legal recourse. Contact us today to find out more.

Types of Mesothelioma

The three main types of mesothelioma are pleural, peritoneal and pericardial. These types of mesothelioma are considered malignant, meaning they have a tendency to become progressively worse and spread throughout the body.

  • Pleural mesothelioma affects the lining of the lungs (the pleura).

    This type of mesothelioma is the most common, and it signifies that a patient has been exposed to high levels of asbestos. Pleural mesothelioma can quickly spread to the outer chest wall, abdomen and heart.

  • Peritoneal mesothelioma affects the lining of the abdomen (the peritoneum).

    While this type of mesothelioma is rare – only about 10 to 20 percent of mesothelioma diagnoses are peritoneal – the disease can quickly spread to the liver, spleen or bowel.

  • Pericardial mesothelioma affects the lining of the heart (the pericardium).

    Only about 1 percent of mesothelioma patients are diagnosed with this type of cancer. Pericardial mesothelioma can prevent the heart from properly delivering oxygen throughout the body.

  • Testicular mesothelioma affects the lining of the testicles.

    This type of cancer is extremely rare and accounts for less than 1 percent of mesothelioma diagnoses. It is believed that testicular mesothelioma may be the result of a primary tumor in the abdomen.

While there have been cases of benign (non-cancerous) mesothelioma, these diagnoses are very rare.

Types of Mesothelioma Tumor Cells

Mesothelioma tumors form when epithelial cells (which make up human tissue known as the epithelium) turn cancerous. These cancerous cells are then classified as epithelioid, sarcomatoid, or biphasic.

  • Epithelial mesothelioma occurs when a malignant tumor consists of epithelioid cells.

    These are the most common type of cancerous cells in mesothelioma patients. Approximately 50 to 70 percent of all malignant mesothelioma cases are classified as epithelial. Epithelioid cells often respond best to chemotherapy and radiation.
  • Sarcomatoid mesothelioma occurs when a malignant tumor consists of sarcomatoid cells.

    These cells are found in only about 7 to 20 percent of all mesothelioma patients. Sarcomatoid cells are considered the most aggressive cell type and are the most resistant to cancer treatments.
  • Biphasic mesothelioma occurs when a malignant tumor consists of a mixture of epithelial and sarcomatoid cells.

    They are the second-most common type of cancerous cells in mesothelioma patients. (Between 20 and 35 percent of mesothelioma cases are classified as biphasic.) The ratio of epithelioid to sarcomatoid cells can vary and will contribute to the likelihood of the affected area responding to treatment.
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