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Disease Process
Physical Therapy
Patient Resources


American Male mesothelioma cases from 2003-2004: 71,000

1989: Environmental Protection Agency banned all new use of asbestos

Expected survival rate is only eight to twelve months (some specialists claim a five-year survival rate approaching 40% for selected patients)

There are 3 main types of mesotheliomas. The most common (50%-70%) is the epithelioid type.

3 out of 4 mesotheliomas start in the chest cavity (pleural). Another 10%-20% begin in the abdomen (peritoneal).


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Disease Process

Mesothelioma is a type of lung cancer caused by exposure to asbestos. While most of us have been exposed to a certain amount of asbestos in our lives, those mostly commonly diagnosed with lung disease have worked in jobs where the level of exposure was at a higher level over a period of time.


Exposure to asbestos.


Early symptoms of mesothelioma are vague and are often missed. Most patients only have synptoms for a 2-3 months before a diagnosis. If you have and of the following symptoms, please follow up with your doctor or health care professional.

Pleural (Lung) Disease:

  • pain in the lower back or at the side of the chest
  • shortness of breath.
  • trouble swallowing, cough, fever, sweating, fatigue, and weight loss
  • hoarseness, coughing up blood, swelling of the face and arms, muscle weakness, and sensory loss.

Perotineal (Abdominal) Disease:
  • abdominal (belly) pain
  • weight loss, nausea, and vomiting
  • possible presence of fluid or a mass in the abdomen.


A thorough examination provided by a patient's doctor can lead to suspicion of mesothelioma, but a definite diagnosis can only be made witha biopsy. The following test will probably be performed:

  • a review of the medical history (including history of asbestos exposure(
  • a complete physical examination
  • x-rays of the chest or abdomen
  • lung function tests
  • a CT scan or MRI may be done
  • a biopsy is necessary to confirm the diagnosis

Current Treatment The traditional treatment for malignant mesothelioma consists of:

  • Surgery (removal of the tumors)
  • Chemotherapy (using drugs to fight the cancer)
  • Radiation Therapy (using x-rays to kill cancer cells)
The following link provides a detailed discussion of each of these forms of treatment: Mesoltheioma Web

How Can Physical Therapy Help

The goal of Physical Therapy is to improve independence and quality of life by improving movement, function, performance of everyday activities and relieving pain. Physical therapists can provide massage to help relax the patient, relieve muscle pain and tension, and decrease felings of depression (through human contact). They may recommend the use of a TENS unit (if prescribed by the patient's doctor) to help decrease the pain using electical current. A physical therapist can also help the camcer patient adjust to a declining level of funtion. They can provide the proper assistive devices and properly train the patient on their use. They can also instruct on easier ways to transfer in and out of bed, the bath, a chair, the car or other surfaces. They can teach a home exercise program if indicated. Physical therapists often work with family members of cancer patients to assist them in learning how to care for the patient. Instruction on the proper way to move tha patient, how to help perform stretches and exercises, home safety, and back safety are often topics that are covered. A physical therapist can help with the management of scarring left by surgery or lymphedema caused by the removal of part of the lymph system. Maintaining strength throughout the cancer treatment will help prevent or decrease the risk of complications.

Patient Resources
Mesothelioma Web
National Cancer Institute



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