Medical Topic Research Blog

Topic: Mesothelioma by Maria Westerhaus

Definitions and Analyses (Word Parts) of Five Medical Terms

1. Word analysis of radiotherapy

Radi/o (CF) = ray, x-ray

-therapy (S) = treatment

Definition: The treatment of disease with ionizing radiation. Also called radiation therapy.

2. Word analysis of malignant

Malign (R) = bad kind

-ant (S) = forming

Definition: Pertaining to a bad wandering; refers to the spreading process of cancer from one area of the body to another.

3. Word analysis of chemotherapy

Chem/o (CF) = chemical

-therapy (S) = treatment

Definition: A type of cancer treatment that uses drugs to destroy cancer cells.

4. Word analysis of dyspnea

Dys- (P) = difficult

-pnea (S) = breathing

Definition: Difficulty in breathing.

5. Word analysis of pneumonectomy

Pneumon (R) = lung

-ectomy (S) = surgical excision

Definition: Surgical excision of the right or left lung.


Malignant mesothelioma is a tumor affecting the pleura, peritoneum, or pericardium (Wagner, 1960). More often than not, mesothelioma appears in the pleural region in 50-70 year old men rather than women (Scagliotti, 2005). The main cause of this rare tumor is exposure to asbestos. Asbestos can be found in homes and industrial buildings before the year 2000- when they found asbestos lead to cancer. Asbestos is useful when insulating inflammable items since it is a heat-resistant fibrous material. Although one can be exposed for an extended amount of time, the cancer won’t present itself until later (Bianchi, 1997; Peto, 1999). A secondary cause would be the SV-40 simian virus (Bocchetta, 2000).

Pleural mesothelioma consists of three subgroups: epithelial- 50-70% of diagnosed cases, sarcomatoid- 7-20% of diagnosed cases, and mixed- a.k.a. biphasic, accounts for 20-35% of cases (Boutin, 1998). Significant signs and symptoms that result from the tumor include dyspnea and chest pain over the course of months (Pisani, 1988; Yates, 1997). Epithelium mesothelioma forms mainly in the lymphatics taking shape as spherical cells that conglomerate into solid masses/columns or else they form a shape resembling that of adenocarcinoma (Dewar, 1987; Oury, 1998). The second and rarest type, sarcomatoid, roots itself in the mesothelium’s deep connective tissue. A combination of the two is the biphasic subgroup category. The easiest of the three to treat is epithelial. Mesothelioma presents no evidence of a premalignant phase like there might be with other cancers (Carbone and Pass, 2000).

The form of mesothelioma pertaining to the peritoneum often spreads to organs like the liver, spleen, and bowel. Symptoms for this disease include constipation, nausea, vomiting, fever, and/or swollen feet. Pericardial mesothelioma is the least common form of this cancer. What happens is the cancer invades the sac around the heart, making it difficult to deliver oxygen to the body. Symptoms of this imitate heart attack symptoms: nausea, pain, shortness of breath. Those who suffer from this form typically have less survival time. Although these forms of mesothelioma are less common, they still do occur with little treatment options.

There are no cures or significant treatments for this disease due to the late stages that the tumor is typically found in. Many patients don’t qualify for surgery so instead, methods of chemotherapy and radiotherapy are often used even though patients only seem to respond 25% of the time (Ong, 1996; Ryan, 1998). If the patient is a candidate for surgery, a pneumonectomy is most often performed (Butchart, 1976; Sugarbaker, 1996). Without any treatment at all, the average survival lies between 4 and 12 months (Neragi-Miandoab, 2006).