Mesothelioma is a rare cancer that is usually associated with the lungs, although it can develop in the mesothelium (protective lining) of any internal organs. The most common cause in developed societies is the inhalation of asbestos dust or glass particles. Usually people who develop mesothelioma have been exposed in their jobs or places of work. For this reason many sufferers file lawsuits against asbestos manufacturers and employers. The first link between asbestos and mesothelioma was suspected in 1898 and the first lawsuit was in 1929.
Diagnosis of mesothelioma can be difficult as the symptoms (shortness of breath, cough, chest pain) are similar to other diseases. The first symptoms often do not appear until 20 years after initial exposure. A history of environmental exposure to asbestos is usually a good indicator of mesothelioma.
The prosnosis for malignant mesothelioma has improved over the years. Sufferers' rate of survival is improved the earlier the diagnosis is made. Treatment usually involves chemotherapy in the early stages, radiation if the disease is localised or surgery in the more advanced stages of the disease.
One of the highest rates of mesothelioma is in the UK, with up to 30 incidences per million per year - almost double that of the United States. However, this may be due to the effectiveness of diagnosis in the United Kingdom.