Pleural mesothelioma is the most prevalent form of mesothelioma, accounting for approximately 80% of all asbestos-related disease. The pleura, or the lining of the lungs becomes affected when asbestos particles are inhaled. As the lungs try to expel these particles, the small fibers become embedded in the lungs creating chronic inflammation. Eventually, as more fibers are inhaled and the lungs become more inflamed cancer cells and tumors develop.
As the disease advances, tumors expand throughout the mesothelial tissue, causing the lungs to lose their elasticity and later impair their ability to function entirely, leaving patients unable to breathe. Pleural effusion may also occur, which causes the chest cavity to fill with fluid and inhibit the smooth movement of the lungs and other organs. Additionally, the cancerous cells frequently metastasize, or move to other parts of the body through the blood and/ or lymph glands, causing the cancer to spread uncontrollably throughout the body.
Because mesothelioma has such a long latency period, it is frequently not diagnosed or misdiagnosed due to the elusive nature of its symptoms. Oftentimes symptoms of mesothelioma are dormant for decades before emerging, causing those affected to quickly deteriorate as the cancer rapidly progresses.
Because pleural mesothelioma typically is not diagnosed until symptoms of the disease are present, patients with this devastating form of cancer are usually not projected to survive for more than one year. However, as medical knowledge of the disease increases, early detection has become key in increasing the life expectancy of those who have been exposed to asbestos.
Typically the first symptom of pleural mesothelioma is chest pain, which is usually the result of the lung tumors and pleural effusion. Over half of patients complain of pain in the lower back or at the side of the chest. Unfortunately this is usually an indication that cancer has already metastasized, or spread to other organs in the body. Other symptoms of pleural mesothelioma include:
- chest pains
- shortness of breath
- weight loss
As public knowledge of asbestos and mesothelioma increases, early detection of the disease has become easier, giving patients more treatment options and a longer life expectancy. If you or a loved one may have been exposed to asbestos, it is imperative to be examined regularly for the disease to aid in early detection. More information, including a list of treatment facilities, is available upon request.
When mesothelioma is thought to be present in a patient, a biopsy should be scheduled to confirm the nature of the abnormal tissue. If a patient is suffering from mesothelioma, treatment options are typically measured depending on the location of the tumor, its size, and the type of cancer cell involved as well as the general response of these cancer cells to treatment.
It is important to note that while there is no cure for pleural mesothelioma, certain treatments can combat the disease to extend life expectancy and quality of life. These treatments include chemotherapy, surgery, drug therapies, radiation therapy and intraoperative photodynamic therapy. Additionally, researchers are currently studying new forms of treatment which may be the next step to finding a cure for this devastating disease.