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Cancer Health Center

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It is possible that the main title of the report Mesothelioma is not the name you expected. Please check the synonyms listing to find the alternate name(s) and disorder subdivision(s) covered by this report.


  • malignant mesothelioma
  • MM

Disorder Subdivisions

  • None

General Discussion

Mesothelioma is a rare form of cancer that affects the cells that make up the mesothelium. The mesothelium is the lining or membrane that covers and protects various internal organs of the body. The mesothelium is composed of two layers of specialized cells known as mesothelial cells. One layer directly surrounds an organ; the other forms a protective sacs around thoracic and peritoneal organs. The most common form of mesothelioma affects the pleura, which is the membrane or sac that lines the lungs and chest cavity. Other common sites include the peritoneum, which is the membrane lining the abdominal cavity, and the pericardium, which is the membrane lining the heart (heart sac). Mesothelial tissue is also found in other areas of the body including the membrane covering the testicles (tunica vaginalis). The disorder most often occurs in older adults. Mesothelioma is often an aggressive form of cancer. Treatments are available, but are not effective for everyone.

The term "cancer"refers to a group of diseases characterized by abnormal, uncontrolled cellular growth (e.g., mesothelial cells) that invades surrounding tissues and may spread (metastasize) to distant bodily tissues or organs via the bloodstream, the lymphatic system, or other means. Different forms of cancer, including mesothelioma, may be classified based upon the cell type involved, the specific nature of the malignancy, the tissues or organs affected, and the disease's clinical course. Symptoms of mesothelioma vary depending upon the location, type and stage of the cancer. Approximately 70 to 90% of cases of mesothelioma result from exposure to asbestos. Symptoms of mesothelioma may not appear until up to 30 to 50 years after initial exposure to asbestos. However, after symptoms become apparent, mesothelioma may rapidly progress to cause life-threatening complications.


American Cancer Society, Inc.
250 Williams NW St
Ste 6000
Atlanta, GA 30303
Tel: (404)320-3333
Tel: (800)227-2345
TDD: (866)228-4327

American Lung Association
1301 Pennsylvania Ave NW
Suite 800
Washington, DC 20004
Tel: (202)785-3355
Fax: (202)452-1805
Tel: (800)586-4872

National Cancer Institute
6116 Executive Blvd Suite 300
Bethesda, MD 20892-8322
Tel: (301)435-3848
Tel: (800)422-6237
TDD: (800)332-8615

PMP Pals' Network
P.O. Box 6484
Salinas, CA 93912
Tel: (831)424-4545
Fax: (831)424-4545

Canadian Cancer Society
55 St. Clair Avenue West Suite 500
Toronto, M4V 2Y7
Tel: 4164885400
Fax: 4164882872
Tel: 8002688874

Cancer Care, Inc.
275 Seventh Avenue
New York, NY 10001
Tel: (212)712-8400
Fax: (212)719-0263
Tel: (800)813-4673

Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation, Inc.
1317 King Street
Alexandria, VA 22314
Tel: (805)563-8400
Fax: (805)563-8411
Tel: (877)363-6376

Rare Cancer Alliance
1649 North Pacana Way
Green Valley, AZ 85614

Genetic and Rare Diseases (GARD) Information Center
PO Box 8126
Gaithersburg, MD 20898-8126
Tel: (301)251-4925
Fax: (301)251-4911
Tel: (888)205-2311
TDD: (888)205-3223

Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization
1525 Aviation Boulevard Suite 318
Redondo Beach, CA 90278
Tel: (310)251-7477
Fax: (866)294-1550

Friends of Cancer Research
1800 M Street NW
Suite 1050 South
Washington, DC 22202
Tel: (202)944-6700

American Society of Clinical Oncology
2318 Mill Road Suite 800
Alexandria, VA 22314
Tel: (571)483-1780
Fax: (571)366-9537
Tel: (888)651-3038

Cancer Support Community
1050 17th St NW Suite 500
Washington, DC 20036
Tel: (202)659-9709
Fax: (202)974-7999
Tel: (888)793-9355

For a Complete Report:

This is an abstract of a report from the National Organization for Rare Disorders (NORD). A copy of the complete report can be downloaded free from the NORD website for registered users. The complete report contains additional information including symptoms, causes, affected population, related disorders, standard and investigational therapies (if available), and references from medical literature. For a full-text version of this topic, go to and click on Rare Disease Database under "Rare Disease Information".

The information provided in this report is not intended for diagnostic purposes. It is provided for informational purposes only. NORD recommends that affected individuals seek the advice or counsel of their own personal physicians.

It is possible that the title of this topic is not the name you selected. Please check the Synonyms listing to find the alternate name(s) and Disorder Subdivision(s) covered by this report

This disease entry is based upon medical information available through the date at the end of the topic. Since NORD's resources are limited, it is not possible to keep every entry in the Rare Disease Database completely current and accurate. Please check with the agencies listed in the Resources section for the most current information about this disorder.

For additional information and assistance about rare disorders, please contact the National Organization for Rare Disorders at P.O. Box 1968, Danbury, CT 06813-1968; phone (203) 744-0100; web site or email

Last Updated: 9/10/2014
Copyright 2004, 2006, 2014 National Organization for Rare Disorders, Inc.

WebMD Medical Reference from the National Organization for Rare Disorders

Last Updated: May 28, 2015
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.

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