Mesothelioma is a type of cancer that is found in the thin mesothelial tissue linings of certain organs, especially the lungs and heart, and the linings of the chest wall and abdomen. It sometimes also may be found in tissues linings in other organs, such as the testicles. The cancer cells may also spread to other areas of the body. Although malignant Mesothelioma is a relatively rare form of cancer, it is quite deadly once symptoms are discovered.

Approximately 3,000 new cases of this disease are diagnosed each year, but this number is expected to rise. A major difficulty presented by Mesothelioma is that it may be decades after exposure to hazardous materials before any symptoms are noticed and treatment begins. The earlier this cancer can be treated, the better is the prognosis. In general, malignant Mesothelioma has a poor prognosis and short life expectancy once symptoms are detected. Most patients with Pleural Mesothelioma die from respiratory failure or pneumonia.

Pleural Mesothelioma

About 70% of all cases of malignant Mesothelioma are of the Pleural type. In addition to Pleural Mesothelioma, which mainly affects the lungs and chest wall tissue linings, other major types include Pericardial and Peritoneal cancers. Since Pleural Mesothelioma is the most common form of Mesothelioma cancers, it has benefited from the most research study. There are several treatment varieties available, and there are ongoing clinical trials to work on development of new drugs and other therapies.

Causes & Risk Factors

Exposure to asbestos minerals and products that are made from or contain asbestos are the primarily cause of Pleural Mesothelioma. These minerals were widely used during the mid-20th Century because of their ability to resist heat or fire. Millions of people were exposed to asbestos products then, as they were widely used for commercial and residential construction projects, in the military, and in the automotive industry. Asbestos was incorporated into products like insulation, flooring, tile, brakes and clutches. Even more people received second hand exposure as those workers carried tiny asbestos fiber particles home on their clothing or hair.

Exposure does not always cause this cancer; many people with years of exposure have not developed Mesothelioma. On the other side of that risk element is that some people who had very limited exposure have developed the disease. This indicates that other factors may be involved in determining whether someone gets Mesothelioma or doesn’t. For instance, you could inherit a predisposition to cancer or some other condition could increase your risk.

Pleural Mesothelioma Symptoms

Symptoms are the first action signal for discovery of and beginning to treat Mesothelioma. A serious problem, however, is that it takes decades for symptoms of this type of cancer to develop and be discovered. Treatments are correlated to the various stages of development of this cancer.

The method of transmission is simple, yet insidious. Just breathing in the tiny fibers as a person handles or is near to asbestos products is enough to allow fibers to enter and settle in the lungs or stomach. This may then cause the irritation that could lead to development of Mesothelioma cancer.

With Pleural Mesothelioma, the cancer affects the lungs, chest wall and other aspects of physiology that are involved with breathing. This accounts for the majority of reported cases of Mesothelioma cancer, which is reasonable, considering that the cancer results from inhaling or ingesting tiny particles of asbestos fibers. Once inhaled, the particles settle in the thin mesothelial tissues that protect the lung and chest wall. When the patient breathes, the presence of these cancerous cells interferes with breathing and cause pain. As with other cancers, there may also be lumps of tissue that accumulate under the skin in this region of the body.

Typical symptoms reported by patients who developed Pleural Mesothelioma include the following:

  • Chest pain under the rib cage
  • Painful coughing
  • Shortness of breath
  • Unusual lumps of tissue under the skin of the chest area
  • Unexplained weight loss

These symptoms are mostly related to the location of this cancer, in and around the lungs and chest wall tissues.


Complications often develop during the course of this cancer as it grows and spreads to other areas of the body. This expansion of the disease puts added pressure on all local structures. Fluid accumulation in the chest may compress the lung, making breathing difficult. In addition to pain and difficulty breathing, complications may include difficulty swallowing, pain from pressure on nerves and the spinal cord.

  • Surgery – Once symptoms are noted, surgery is an excellent first treatment, especially in early stage development of this type of cancer. In addition to removal of all or portions of the pleura, adjacent organs and lymph nodes may require removal if they also are cancerous.
  • Chemotherapy – Often used in conjunction with surgery, this can kill fast-growing cancer cells in the body and any cells that might be left over after surgery.
  • Radiation – This can shrink tumors and help stop cancer cells from spreading. It is a treatment that can help stop recurrence of cancer.
  • Clinical Trials – Patients participating in these may benefit from being the first to use newly proven effective drugs that are not yet on the market.
  • Other Therapies – New developments include Biologic and Targeted therapies.

Survival Rates

Regardless of where they originate, malignant cells from the mesothelium can invade and damage nearby tissues. Cancer cells can also metastasize, or spread, to other parts of the body. Often, by the time Mesothelioma is diagnosed, the disease is advanced beyond remedy. The five-year survival rate is around 5% to 10%.

Pleural Mesothelioma is primarily caused by exposure to asbestos materials, but it may also develop due to other causes, including a genetic predisposition to cancers. For this reason, it is important to be aware of the symptoms of Pleural Mesothelioma, even if you believe you have never been around asbestos minerals or materials containing any of the asbestos minerals.

Symptoms of a disease are an internal early warning system. Chest pain, difficulty breathing, coughing, lumps under the chest area skin or unexplained weight loss all are signals that something is wrong and needs medical attention. Do not hesitate to consult with a medical professional about any of these symptoms. Early diagnosis of any cancer enhances overall survival rates and chances for total recovery.