Mesothelioma is a rare and deadly form of cancer that develops in the thin layer of tissue that lines the lungs, abdomen, and other organs. The only known cause of mesothelioma is exposure to asbestos. Asbestos fibers, when inhaled or ingested, can become lodged in the mesothelial tissue and cause mutations in the cells, leading to the development of mesothelioma.
In order to diagnose and treat mesothelioma, doctors must first understand the pathology of the disease, or the way in which it affects the body. This involves examining the cells and tissues involved to determine the extent and type of cancer present. Pathologists use a variety of tools to examine the tissue samples, including microscopes, special stains, and genetic testing.
The first step in the pathology of mesothelioma is to identify the cells involved. Under a microscope, mesothelioma cells are typically identified as epithelioid or sarcomatoid, although some may be biphasic, containing both types of cells. The cells may also be characterized as malignant or benign. Special stains, such as immunohistochemistry, are used to further distinguish mesothelioma cells from other types of cancer cells.
Once the cells have been identified, pathologists may use genetic testing to determine the specific type of mesothelioma. This is important because different types of mesothelioma respond to different treatments. Genetic testing may also be used to identify which genes are mutated in the cells, and if any of those mutations are linked to a worse prognosis.
In addition to examining the cells and tissues, pathologists may also perform a biopsy of the affected area. This involves surgically removing a small piece of tissue and examining it under a microscope. In some cases, a biopsy may be necessary to confirm a diagnosis of mesothelioma.
The pathology of mesothelioma is a complex and ongoing process. Pathologists must use a variety of techniques to identify the cells and tissues involved, and then use genetic testing to determine the type of mesothelioma present. Furthermore, a biopsy may be necessary to confirm a diagnosis. By understanding the pathology of mesothelioma, doctors can better diagnose and treat this aggressive and deadly form of cancer.