What is Pleural Mesothelioma?

Pleural mesothelioma is a particularly aggressive and dangerous type of cancer. It is defined as a cancer of the lining that surrounds the lungs or chest cavity. There are two main reasons why it is so dangerous. It has a very long time between initial exposure to the causative agent, almost always asbestos, and the development of symptoms. This time span can often be decades long, and many times, a diagnosis is made too late for effective treatment. Additionally, once symptoms are present in such severity that a diagnosis is sought, the cancer has reached an advanced stage.

Pleural mesothelioma is the most common form of mesothelioma, but shares the primary cause of all other types. Asbestos is inhaled and collects inside the lungs. While most asbestos particles are eliminated by natural functions of the human body, individual fibers can migrate to the pleural lining, and initiate cancerous growth over the years. The full effects of pleural mesothelioma on society will take some time to figure, as the use of asbestos has been so widespread in preceding years.

The symptoms of pleural mesothelioma are many, but are usually caused by one of three complications. The rapid growth of a malignant tumor on the pleural lining can put tremendous pressure on the lungs. In addition, fluid can often build up in between the pleural lining and the lungs as a result of tumor growth.

Symptoms specific to the above causes can include, but are certainly not limited to dry coughing, chest pain and shortness of breath. The least significant of these symptoms, dry coughing has many causes and should generally only be considered specific to mesothelioma when other symptoms are present, or exposure to asbestos has been documented. Both chest pain and shortness of breath, however, can be indicative of many serious conditions, and should be assessed by a doctor promptly.

The third common cause for some of the more general symptoms is the body's attempt to fight the disease. These can include fever, inability to regulate the body's temperature and weight loss.

A number of screening options are available to your doctor in order to determine whether or not pleural mesothelioma is the cause of symptoms. These can include CAT scans, MRI and X-Rays. After the initial screening, if mesothelioma is still suspected, a biopsy will be performed to analyze the tissue in question.

Again, there are different techniques the doctor can use in order to sample the tissue, depending on the circumstances. Generally, however, a biopsy is relatively non-invasive procedure where a piece of the tumor is removed from the patient and sent to lab. Specialists at the lab can then perform a number of different tests in order to determine the nature of the tissue.

Finally, with a positive identification as pleural mesothelioma, the doctor can then begin treatment. Radiation therapy, chemotherapy, surgical removal of the cancerous areas, and clinical trials can all be utilized. The specific treatment option will generally be determined by the stage, or level of advancement, of the cancer.

While pleural mesothelioma is very treatable if caught at the earliest stages, this is often not the case due to the very general symptoms it produces. As the cancer advances into the later stages, treatment will primarily be focused on improving the patient's quality of life.
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