Pleural mesothelioma is a rare type of cancer caused by exposure to asbestos. When asbestos fibers are inhaled, they can potentially become embedded in the mesothelial tissue of the pleura (serous membrane lining the lungs), where they can cause scarring and lesions. These lesions and scars can eventually develop into pleural mesothelioma, a deadly form of cancer for which there is no cure.
Pleural mesothelioma is one of three types of malignant mesothelioma, the other two of which include peritoneal mesothelioma and pericardial mesothelioma. The three mesotheliomas are also typed in accordance with a histological classification system that is based on cellular structure: epitheliod mesothelioma, sarcomatoid mesothelioma or biphasic mesothelioma. All three types of mesothelioma cancer yield a variety of shared symptoms, while there are some symptoms that are exclusive to each type of the disease.
Although malignant mesothelioma is the most serious disease linked with exposure to asbestos fibers, it is not the only one. Asbestos exposure has been linked with the development of a number of serious diseases, others of which include asbestos lung cancer and asbestosis. Of the three, asbestosis is the only non-malignant asbestos disease; however, its effects can be nonetheless debilitating.
The symptoms of pleural mesothelioma include:
- Chronic cough
- Expectorating blood
- Stomach pain
- Shortness of breath/ wheezing
- Chronic fatigue
- Weight loss
- Chest pain
Malignant pleural mesothelioma cancer is fatal; most patients die within just two years of diagnosis. However, researchers are working hard to develop new treatments and perhaps even a cure for the disease.
Diagnosis of Pleural Mesothelioma
A complete medical examination must be completed before making a mesothelioma diagnosis. A patient may be asked to provide fluid and tissue samples. Imaging is also a common part of the diagnostic process. Imaging tests include x rays, CT scans, MRI scans, and positron emission tomography or PET. Doctors use both sampling and imaging techniques to make the mesothelioma diagnosis process easier and to help distinguish pleural mesothelioma from other diseases such as asbestos lung cancer, asbestosis, diffuse pleural thickening, fibrosis and pneumonia.
Pleural Mesothelioma Treatment
The following pleural mesothelioma treatment options are available to help prolong or improve a victim's life:
- Removal of fluid accumulation from the chest
- Gene therapy
- Photodynamic therapy
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