People who have had exposure in the past to products made from or containing asbestos minerals may find that decades later they exhibit symptoms of Pleural Mesothelioma. This is a type of malignant cancer that forms on the lining of the lungs and chest wall. It accounts for about 70% of all Mesothelioma cancers. Other types include Peritoneal Mesothelioma, which is found in the abdomen, and Pericardial Mesothelioma, a heart disease.

Pleural Mesothelioma

The lungs, some other organs and the chest wall are covered with very thin tissue linings called the mesothelium. When cancer develops in these tissues, it can become malignant and also spread to other areas of the body. Of the three major types of Mesothelioma, the most common is Pleural Mesothelioma, a cancer found in tissues of the lungs and chest wall.

The origin of this lung disease is almost always due to inhalation of tiny particles of asbestos minerals. This can occur during work, as people mine the minerals or use them in construction. It also may occur in people who associate with others who have been exposed to asbestos products and carry tiny particles of the minerals on clothing or hair which later become airborne. Other people are exposed when they use various products that contain asbestos, such as brakes or clutches, flooring or other building materials. This disease affects older men more frequently than women, because men traditionally held the industrial jobs that exposed them to asbestos products.

Symptoms & Diagnosis

The lungs are surrounded by two thin layers of tissue that also have a slight amount of fluid in between those layers to reduce any friction. When the tissues are irritated by the invasion of tiny asbestos fiber particles, the amount of that fluid increases. This extra fluid adds painful pressures on the lungs during breathing or when you cough. This is one symptom of Pleural Mesothelioma. Other common symptoms besides difficulty breathing and coughing include pain under the rib cage, difficulty swallowing, and unexplained weight loss. Complications may also be noticed, including night sweats, fever, difficulty swallowing, and lumps under the skin of the chest area.

Sometimes symptoms are so mild, a person fails to seek medical attention. This is unfortunate, because these symptoms take so long after exposure to develop that the cancer may be untreatable at that point. Without treatment, it is deadly. Pleural Mesothelioma symptoms also mimic other diseases, so misdiagnoses are possible. Getting a diagnosis as early as possible offers the patient the best potential outcome. If the patient knows they have been exposed to or worked with asbestos mineral materials previously, the doctor will most likely consult with specialists immediately.

Many types of tests are used to confirm diagnosis of Pleural Mesothelioma. Typical testing may include X-Ray, CT or PET scans, MRI, blood tests and biopsies. Once the diagnosis is established, a course of treatment will be developed. Early treatment is important and an essential way to achieve best results.

Treatment for Pleural Mesothelioma

As soon as symptoms appear, and the doctor confirms a diagnosis of Pleural Mesothelioma, treatment begins. The cancer will be at one of four designated stages. If the cancer is in an early stage, surgery offers the best opportunity to totally eliminate this cancer and prevent it from spreading to other organs. After surgery, radiation and chemotherapy may be used to ensure that all cancer cells are eliminated. Additional follow-up will be done to watch for any future recurrences of this disease. Some methods of treatment are designed to control the cancer while other methods are used to improve quality of life for the patient.

There are many ways to treat Pleural Mesothelioma cancer after a diagnosis is confirmed. This may include one or more of the following treatments:

  • Surgery – In this type of Mesothelioma, surgery will remove all or part of the pleura. If the cancer has spread to adjacent organs or lymph nodes, those may also be removed.
  • Chemotherapy – This is a way to kill cancer cells or reduce tumor size. One or more drugs may be used alone or in combination with other treatments.
  • Radiation – With targeted radiation, doctors seek to destroy cancer cells and reduce tumor size. This type of cancer often resists radiation therapy, but it can be used to help manage symptoms.

Treatment of Pleural Mesothelioma is the only way to try to fight against ethis disease. In addition to these traditional medical therapies, patients may benefit from adding complementary therapies that may help reduce symptoms and side effects. These include options like acupuncture, acupressure, nutritional regimes, meditation, Tai Chi, Qigong, and Osteopathic medicine techniques.

Treatment & Life Expectancy

With early treatment, life expectancy rates are the best. Pleural Mesothelioma has a poor prognosis, with a limited life expectancy that often is far less than 5 years after diagnosis. If diagnosis is made early, this disease can be treated with surgery and potentially end this threat. Since the development of most symptoms is delayed by many decades after exposure to asbestos materials, it usually is too late to prevent life threatening damage after those symptoms are detected.

In one study of patients who worked with asbestos during the mid-20th Century, the life expectancy rates corresponded to the stage of advancement of this cancer. At Stage 1, the timeline was about 21 months, but by Stage 4, this was reduced to 12 months. Some people, however, defy the odds and do survive many more years than expected. Any prognosis is also affected by other factors, including gender, age, smoking history, and the cellular makeup of the cancer. Younger patients in better health will also respond better to therapies.

Pleural Mesothelioma is the most common type of Mesothelioma. It is a rare but deadly form of cancer, killing about 3,000 people yearly, and that figure is expected to rise as more people previously exposed to asbestos minerals develop symptoms of the disease. Without treatment, life expectancy is well under 5 years, as low as 12 months from diagnosis. With treatment, patients may outlive the 5 year survival rate by many more years.

Getting early diagnosis and treatment is the best way to fight against Pleural Mesothelioma. If you have any history of possibly being exposed to asbestos materials, consult with your doctor about treatment and ongoing therapies to eliminate or manage this type of cancer.