Most people understand that lung cancer involves abnormal cells in the lungs and skin cancer involves abnormal cells in the skin. It is common for people to have a general understanding about what cancer is. However, for many people, mesothelioma remains a bit of a mystery.
Mesothelioma is actually another type of cancer. This type of cancer is rare and aggressive, and its development is often associated with exposure to asbestos.
Doctors categorize mesothelioma by the affected location
Mesothelioma occurs in the mesothelium, which is a layer of tissue covering most internal organs. Although the mesothelium is a single membrane, the different areas of it have different names.
The part of the mesothelium that surrounds the lungs and chest cavity is called the pleura. The part that surrounds the abdominal cavity is called the peritoneum. The part that surrounds the heart is called the pericardium, and the part that covers the testes is the tunica vaginalis.
The type of mesothelioma someone may have depends on where on the mesothelium the abnormal cells are located. The four types of mesothelioma based on location, include:
- Pleura mesothelioma, which affects the lungs
- Peritoneal mesothelioma, which affects the organs in the abdominal cavity
- Pericardial mesothelioma, which affects the heart
- Testicular mesothelioma, which affects the testes
Mesothelioma can be further categorized by the type of cells affected
A doctor or researcher will also categorize mesothelioma based on the appearance of the cancer cells. To do this, they must view the cells under a microscope.
The three types of mesothelioma based on cell type, include:
- Epethelioid mesothelioma, which involves cells arranged in sheets. This is the most common type, and it is the easiest to treat.
- Sarcomatoid mesothelioma, which involves cells that are a more spindly shape than epithelioid cells. This is the least common type and also the most difficult to treat.
- Biphasic mesothelioma, which involves a mix of epetheliod and sarcomatoid cells. The balance between the two types of cells affect how well they will respond to treatment.
It matters the way mesothelioma is classified because the location and appearance of abnormal cells can affect the type of treatment that may be affective. By properly identifying a particular type of mesothelioma, doctors can recommend the most appropriate treatment options for that specific situation.