What is Pleural Mesothelioma?
When asbestos fibers and dust are inhaled, they become attached to the lining of the lungs, which is called the pleura. Pleural mesothelioma is a cancer that develops in the lining of the lungs. It is the most common type of mesothelioma diagnosis. Almost 75 percent of all mesothelioma cases are diagnosed as pleural mesothelioma. Generally, pleural mesothelioma patients are expected to survive for 18 months or fewer, but improved treatment options have made survival prognosis much better.
What are Pleural Mesothelioma Symptoms?
Like other forms of mesothelioma, the symptoms of pleural mesothelioma are not readily seen until the later stages of the cancer. Symptoms may develop early on, but don’t always raise red flags because of the similarity to common ailments and other sicknesses. One of the major symptoms that can’t be ignored is a persistent dry, raspy cough. As the asbestos begins to irritate the cells of the pleura, fluid begins to build up between the lung and pleura lining. This is called a pleural effusion, which puts massive amounts of pressure on the lung and makes it difficult to breathe. Over time, tumors develop and the advancing cancer may spread to other areas of the body, which reduces the number of treatment options. Symptoms include:
- Persistent dry, raspy cough
- Pain in the chest
- Coughing up blood
- Difficulty breathing
- Tumor lumps in chest
- Unexplained weight loss
- Difficulty swallowing
How Do You Diagnose Pleural Mesothelioma?
Since mesothelioma is a rare cancer, it is not readily seen by physicians. Pleural mesothelioma symptoms raise red flags for the patient that something may be wrong. When those symptoms don’t go away, doctors will dig deeper to find out what is wrong. During their medical assessment, your physician will learn about your medical history, occupation history and whether you know if you were exposed to asbestos. Based on your symptoms and personal history, a physician will begin to take imaging scans and biopsies. X-Rays generally are used to view and diagnose pleural mesothelioma. The surgical procedure called a thoracoscopy allows a physician to explore the lung area with a small camera and extract tissue from the lining of the lung for a biopsy procedure.
How Do Your Treat Pleural Mesothelioma?
A mesothelioma specialist usually will recommend surgery if a patient’s pleural mesothelioma is caught in an early stage. The latency period of mesothelioma can last multiple decades. The symptoms tend to mirror normal illness and ailments, so it is rare to catch pleural mesothelioma in its early stages. If surgery is recommended, then the surgeon will try to remove as much of the tumor as possible by using a procedure called a pleurectomy/decortication. Another type of surgery is called an extrapleural pneumonectomy, which is when a surgeon removes an entire cancerous lung, the diaphragm, and the lining of the heart, which is called the pericardium.
The majority of clinical trials focus on finding a combination of chemotherapy drugs that will be effective in curing pleural mesothelioma. So far, medical professionals have been unsuccessful in finding a cure. However, those doctors have found success in combining chemotherapy drugs to slow the spread of the cancer.
Physicians may recommend radiation to help alleviate the pain associated with mesothelioma. Radiation also is used by mesothelioma specialists after surgery to help prevent the reoccurrence of cancer cells.
The best treatment results for pleural mesothelioma patients are when multiple options are combined. A multimodal therapy may produce positive health results. When an extrapleural pneumonectomy surgery is performed, the targeted radiation is administered in order to help eliminate future local cancer. Chemotherapy treatments are administered in order to prevent the spread of cancer.
What is the Prognosis of those with Pleural Mesothelioma?
Like all cancers, the sooner pleural mesothelioma can be diagnosed, the better your prognosis. The treatment options for pleural mesothelioma cancer diagnosed in Stage I and Stage II are more effective than those for cancer diagnosed in Stage III and Stage IV. With advancements such as multimodal therapy, the prognosis for patients is improving and life spans are increasing. There are other factors that affect prognosis such as patient age, overall health, gender, smoking history and cell type.