Pleural mesothelioma is the most common type of mesothelioma. Mesothelioma is cancer that develops in the lining of the lungs and is caused by exposure to asbestos.
It is also sometimes called “cancer of the lung lining”. Asbestos is a material that was used frequently in construction up until the 1970’s.
Asbestos is fireproof and doesn’t conduct electricity or heat. While it was good for construction purposes, unfortunately it was discovered that asbestos is very harmful to humans.
Pleural mesothelioma is mainly seen in men who worked in construction and had extended exposure to asbestos. It can take 10 – 50 years for the disease to show symptoms. It is a rare disease to see today, but it has seen spikes over the past 30 years. From 1973 – 1984 there was a 300% increase in the number of pleural mesothelioma cases diagnosed.
Signs & Symptoms
Symptoms of pleural mesothelioma can include coughing, pains in the chest, shortness of breath, and coughing up blood. Patients often have difficulty breathing and pains also in their ribs. Fluid builds up and interferes with their ability to breath.
Pleural mesothelioma can be difficult to diagnose due to there being such a long period between asbestos exposure and the disease making itself known. Many patients can experience symptoms for up to six months before they seek treatment. This is unfortunate because by that time the cancer has had ample time to spread and may not be as treatable. Anyone who has knowingly had exposure to asbestos should get checked regularly for asbestos-related diseases.
Diagnosis is made after blood tests, imaging tests and a sample of the cells are studied under a microscope. At first inspection pleural mesothelioma cells often look like other cancer cells so special testing is needed to confirm the diagnosis.
Treatment for pleural mesothelioma depends on the age, health and medical history of the patient. Most patients are treated with a combination of surgery, chemotherapy and radiation. No one treatment alone has proven to be the best. Surgery can involve removing the lining of the lung or the entire lung.
This is often followed by chemotherapy and radiation treatments. Surgery can also be used to drain the fluid that has built up and relieve the pressure, thus making it easier for the patient to breathe. Chemotherapy has been shown to improve survival rates.
Pleural mesothelioma is a disease that is rarely cured. The aim of treatment is to make the patient as comfortable as possible and manage their symptoms. Unfortunately, overall prognosis is not very good, however its still important to understand the stages of mesothelioma. Patients often only live for three to five years after their diagnosis. Early detection is the best chance of achieving a better outcome.