NCCN Guidelines for Patients® | Malignant Pleural Mesothelioma - page 7

NCCN Guidelines for Patients
: Malignant Pleural Mesothelioma
Version 1.2012
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Part 1: About mesothelioma
Malignant pleural mesothelioma is the medical name
for cancer that starts in the mesothelium of the lungs.
It is also simply called mesothelioma. It isn’t lung cancer.
Lung cancer begins inside the lungs.
Cancer is a disease of cells. Abnormal changes
(mutations) in genes can turn normal cells into cancer
cells. Genes are instructions in cells for making new cells
and controlling how cells behave. Gene mutations cause
cancer cells to act differently than normal cells.
Normal cells grow and then divide to form new cells as
the body needs them. When normal cells grow old or get
damaged, they die. Cancer cells don’t do this. Cancer
cells make new cells that aren’t needed and don’t die
quickly when old or damaged. Over time, the cancer
cells grow and divide enough to form a mass called the
primary tumor. If the primary tumor isn’t treated, it can
grow and invade nearby tissues and organs, such
as the lungs.
Unlike normal cells, cancer cells can spread and form
tumors in other parts of the body. Cancer that has spread
is called a metastasis. Cancer cells often spread through
lymph or blood. Lymph is a clear fluid that gives cells
water and food. It also has white blood cells that fight
germs. Lymph nodes are groups of disease-fighting
cells that filter lymph and remove germs. Lymph travels
throughout the body in vessels like blood does.
As shown in Figure 2, lymph vessels and nodes are
found everywhere in the body.
Figure 2. Lymphatic system
Illustration Copyright © 2012 Nucleus Medical Media, All rights reserved.
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