Malignant mesothelioma is an unusual form of cancer in that it usually remains latent in the body for 20-50 years before it appears. However, benign or non-malignant mesothelioma cancer can surface much sooner and is often an indication that the individual should be carefully watched for signs of more serious asbestos-related diseases in the future.
Benign mesothelioma is much easier to treat than the malignant form and can indeed be treated successfully. This type of asbestos cancer also differs from the malignant form in that benign tumors do not invade nearby tissues nor spread to other parts of the body. The fact that it remains contained makes it much easier to address and mesothelioma surgery may be recommended. However, these benign tumors can grow to be quite large and may indeed negatively impact the organs of the body that are close to the tumor, causing a host of other problems if not immediately addressed.
Non-malignant mesothelioma, for the most part, causes many of the same symptoms as malignant mesothelioma so, at the offset, it is difficult to distinguish the two with just a simple examination. Mesothelioma symptoms may include dry cough, difficulty breathing or shortness of breath, and chest pain. After the initial examination, mesothelioma doctors will most likely order a simple chest x-ray followed by more sophisticated imaging tests that may include a CT scan or MRI. A biopsy will be part of this battery of tests as well, if a mesothelioma diagnosis is suspected after the scans. The biopsy can definitively determine whether or not the tumor is malignant.
Once diagnosed, benign mesothelioma is usually treated with a surgical procedure known as a thoracotomy. This type of mesothelioma treatment involves the removal of one segment of the lung or, in very rare cases, the entire affected lung. As with any surgery, complications may occur, but the mesothelioma survival rate is generally higher in these patients.
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Cancer Research UK. About Mesothelioma