Malignant mesothelioma is a cancer that attacks the thin, cellular linings (known as the mesothelium) responsible for protecting important organs and other parts of the body – particularly the abdomen and/or chest. The mesothelium produces a special, lubricating fluid that essentially eliminates friction between organs so they can touch each other and move without sticking together. This function is particularly important in helping the lungs expand and contract inside the chest cavity without sticking. The mesothelium has several different names depending on its job. For example, the pericardium covers the heart.
The mesothelium may develop both benign and malignant tumors, and the invasion of cancerous cells may originate from any of the body’s linings. However, the vast majority of mesothelioma tumors begin in the chest and are known as pleural mesotheliomas.