M proteins: Antibodies or parts of antibodies found in unusually large amounts in the blood or urine of people with multiple myeloma.

Macrophage: A type of white blood cell that surrounds and kills microorganisms, removes dead cells, and stimulates the action of other immune system cells.

Mafosfamide: A form of cyclophosphamide that can be administered as an intrathecal infusion. Mafosfamide is being studied as an anticancer drug; it belongs to the family of drugs called alkylating agents.

MAGE-3: A gene found in some types of tumors.

Magnetic resonance imaging (mag-NET-ik REZ-o-nans IM-a-jing): MRI. A procedure in which a magnet linked to a computer is used to create detailed pictures of areas inside the body.

Maintenance therapy: Treatment that is given to help a primary (original) treatment keep working. Maintenance therapy is often given to help keep cancer in remission.

Malabsorption syndrome: A group of symptoms such as gas, bloating, abdominal pain, and diarrhea resulting from the body's inability to properly absorb nutrients.

Malignancy: A cancerous tumor that can invade and destroy nearby tissue and spread to other parts of the body.

Malignant (ma-LIG-nant): Cancerous; a growth with a tendency to invade and destroy nearby tissue and spread to other parts of the body.

Malignant ascites: A condition in which fluid containing cancer cells collects in the abdomen.

Malignant fibrous histiocytoma: Characterized by a tumor developing in soft tissue or bone.

Malignant meningioma: A rare, quickly growing tumor that occurs in the chest or abdomen. Exposure to airborne asbestos particles increases one's risk of developing malignant mesothelioma.

Malignant Mesothelioma

Malignant mesothelioma: A rare type of cancer in which malignant cells are found in the sac lining the chest or abdomen. Exposure to airborne asbestos particles increases one's risk of developing malignant mesothelioma.

People who have been exposed to asbestos are at higher risk of developing a very deadly cancer called malignant mesothelioma. It is a rare type of cancer in which malignant cells are found in the sac lining the chest or abdomen. Exposure to airborne asbestos particles increases one's risk of developing malignant mesothelioma.

When asbestos fibers are breathed into the lungs, they go through the the small airways in the lungs and get to the pleura. It is here that asbestos fibers can do long term damage as they cause inflammation and scarring. Over many years, asbestos fibers can damage the DNA of the lung cells and cause mutations that may lead to uncontrolled growth of cells, which can lead to cancer. Also, if you swallow asbestos fibers, the stomach can be affected and lead to peritoneal mesothelioma.

Types of Mesothelioma

A tumor that is located in the mesothelium is known as malignant mesothelioma. The disease can originate in four parts of the body:

  • Pleural mesothelioma: In the chest, which makes up about ¾ of cases.
  • Peritoneal mesothelioma: In the abdomen.
  • Pericardial mesothelioma: In the lining surrounding the heart; very rare.
  • Mesothelioma of the tunica vaginalis: In the covering surrounding the testicles.

While most people who are exposed to asbestos fibers for many years in their work or at home do not develop mesothelioma, it is a deadly lung cancer that is very serious and often incurable. If you have a genetic tendency to develop lung cancer, being exposed to asbestos fibers can lead to malignant mesothelioma. Anyone who has been exposed to asbestos for long periods of time is at risk of developing this cancer.

More About Mesothelioma Risk Factors

As noted above, significant, long term exposure to asbestos is the major risk factor for developing mesothelioma. Research shows that the majority of pleural mesothelioma cases are related to asbestos, particularly high levels of exposure on the job.

Asbestos also was often used to insulate homes for many years, especially those that were built in the earlier part of the 20th century. Much of that asbestos insulation was contained inside of the building materials, so the chances of developing mesothelioma from these sources is quite low. However, when buildings are being renovated, asbestos fibers can get into the air.

Other risk factors for developing mesothelioma are:

  • Radiation: There have been some reports of people developing this cancer when they were exposed to high radiation levels while they were receiving radiation treatment for another cancer.
  • Injections of thorium dioxide: This is a radioactive material that was used for some types of x-rays in the 1950s. It causes cancer and has not been used in many years.
  • Age: Risk of developing mesothelioma climbs as you age; most people with this cancer are 65+.
  • Gender: Mesothelioma occurs in men much more often than women; this is probably because men work in more jobs with heavy exposure to asbestos.
    • The more of these risk factors you have, the higher statistical chance you have of developing the disease.

      Malignant Mesothelioma Statistics

      While mesothelioma is rare with only 3,000 cases in the US per year, it is a very deadly cancer that has a low five year survival rate.

      Mesothelioma cases grew in frequency in the 1970s and 1980s; since that time the rate has declined. These changes are probably due to the fact that using asbestos in industry has been greatly reduced due to new laws and regulations.

      Mesothelioma is more common in whites and Hispanics and Latinos; it is comparatively rare in African Americans.

      Your chances of survival of mesothelioma are higher if it is caught early:

      • Stage 1: 21 months
      • Stage 2: 19 months
      • Stage 3: 16 months
      • Stage 4: 12 months

      Statistically, your chances of surviving this cancer are much higher if it is caught early.

      Catching Malignant Mesothelioma in Early Stages

      Because mesothelioma is so rare, there are few screening tests existing to find the cancer in early stages. However, if you know you have been exposed to asbestos, some physicians recommend chest x-rays and CT scans every few years to look for any abnormalities in the lungs that could hint at potential trouble.

      Some doctors have found that having highly levels of osteopontin and soluble mesothelin related peptides in the blood could make you at higher risk for developing the disease.

      Anyone who was exposed to asbestos at work for years should be on the watch for early signs and symptoms of the disease.

      Possible Signs and Symptoms:

      • Pain in the right or left side of chest and/or lower back
      • Regular short breath
      • Fever
      • Cough
      • High amount of sweating
      • Tiredness
      • Weight loss with no effort
      • Hoarseness
      • Swelling in arms and face

      If you have many of these symptoms for long periods of time, you should be examined by a doctor and then consider potential treatments if mesothelioma is found.

      After your cancer is found and diagnosed, treatment options will be discussed between you and your cancer treatment team. How to treat the tumors will depend upon where they are and the stage of the disease. Based upon these facts, treatment options can include surgery, radiation and chemotherapy.

      In many cases, more than one of these options will be used. The problem with treatment is that mesothelioma does not usually grow as one mass. Rather, it spreads on organ surfaces and linings, and also on nerves and blood vessels. This can make it difficult to eradicate the cancer completely.

      If you are suffering from mesothelioma or suspect you are, you need to be evaluated by a medical professional immediately. Personal injury lawsuits may be filed on your behalf, but there is a statute of limitations on claiming personal injury, depending upon the states involved.

MALT lymphoma: Mucosa-associated lymphoid tissue lymphoma. A type of cancer that arises in cells in mucosal tissue that are involved in antibody production.

Mammogram (MAM-o-gram): An x-ray of the breast.

Mammography (mam-OG-ra-fee): The use of x-rays to create a picture of the breast.

Mantle field (MAN-tul): The area of the neck, chest, and lymph nodes in the armpit that are exposed to radiation.

Marimastat: An anticancer drug that belongs to the family of drugs called angiogenesis inhibitors. Marimastat is a matrix metalloproteinase inhibitor.

Marker: A diagnostic indication that disease may develop.

Mastectomy (mas-TEK-toe-mee): Surgery to remove the breast (or as much of the breast tissue as possible).

Matrix metalloproteinase: A member of a group of enzymes that can break down proteins, such as collagen, that are normally found in the spaces between cells in tissues (i.e., extracellular matrix proteins). Because these enzymes need zinc or calcium atoms to work properly, they are called metalloproteinases. Matrix metalloproteinases are involved in wound healing, angiogenesis, and tumor cell metastasis.

MDL 101,731: A drug that belongs to a family of drugs called ribonucleotide reductase inhibitors.

Measurable disease: A tumor that can be accurately measured in size. This information can be used to judge response to treatment.

Mec: A tumor that can be accurately measured in size. This information can be used to judge response to treatment.

Medial supraclavicular lymph nodes: Lymph nodes located above the collar bone and between the center of the body and a line drawn through the nipple to the shoulder.

Median: A statistics term. The middle value in a set of measurements.

Median survival time: The point in time from either diagnosis or treatment at which half of the patients with a given disease are found to be, or expected to be, still alive. In a clinical trial, median survival time is one way to measure how effective a treatment is.