Epithelial mesothelioma, also referred to as epithelioid mesothelioma, is the most common form of malignant mesothelioma. It occurs in between 50 and 70 percent of all mesothelioma cases.
Mesothelioma is a rare and aggressive form of cancer that is diagnosed in an estimated 2,000 to 3,000 people each year in the United states. It is a cancer of the mesothelium, which is a protective lining around most major organs in the body, including the heart, lungs, and organs in the abdomen. Mesothelioma causes cells of the mesothelium to develop abnormally and to become malignant.
In different regions of the body the mesothelium has different names. The mesothelium of the lungs and chest cavity is the pleura; of the heart it is the pericardium; of the abdominal region it is the peritoneum; and of the tunica vaginalis testis (male) or tunica serosa uteri (female). When mesothelioma occurs in each of the regions, it is named accordingly:
- Pleural mesothelioma – Mesothelioma of the pleura
- Peritoneal mesothelioma – Mesothelioma of the peritoneum
- Pericardial mesothelioma – Mesothelioma of the pericardium
- Testicular mesothelioma – Mesothelioma of the tunica vaginalis testis
Malignant mesothelioma is then broken down into three sub-types based on cells found in the tumors: epithelial (or epithelioid) mesothelioma; sarcomatoid mesothelioma; and biphasic mesothelioma. These sub-types of mesothelioma are named because of the way that the mesothelioma cells appear microscopically.
The cells in Epithelial mesothelioma closely resemble epithelial cells. Epithelial cells line the organs and cavities in the body. When viewed under a microscope, epithelial mesothelioma cells appear to be well-defined and uniform, with a distinct cell nucleus which can be distinguished. However, the epithelial mesothelioma cells may be mistaken for another type of cancer that occurs in the mesothelium, called adenocarcinoma.
Symptoms of epithelial mesothelioma may include fatigue, coughing, hoarseness, shortness of breath, chest pain, abdominal pain or swelling, or weight loss. Early symptoms of the cancer may present much like common ailments, such as a cold or flu virus. This can potentially lead to a delay in proper diagnosis.
Epithelial mesothelioma may be diagnosed using a variety of diagnostic tools. Early tests may include blood tests and tissue samples. Ultrasounds, CT scans, MRIs, and PET scans are also tools utilized to diagnose mesothelioma. In addition, specialists may use immunohistochemistry (chemical testing of cells and tissues) or fine needle aspiration (using a needle to withdraw fluid from the body) to diagnose the cancer. Doctors may use a number of diagnostic tests before making an accurate diagnosis of epithelial mesothelioma.
Treatment of epithelial mesothelioma may include surgical removal of a portion of an affected area, chemotherapy, and/or radiation. Some patients may also opt to use alternative medicine or complementary treatments to ease the pain they experience as a result of their cancer.
Of the three subtypes of mesothelioma, the prognosis is the best for patients with epithelial mesothelioma. The average survival rate for this type of cancer is eight and a half months. The prognosis may be somewhat dependent on a patient’s age, as well as when the cancer was discovered. Mesothelioma that is diagnosed in stage one or two presents typically presents better odds for survival than mesothelioma that is diagnosed in stages three or four.