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Pleural mesothelioma is a rare cancer and the primary cause is asbestos exposure. The cancer develops in the mesothelium, which is the thin layer of tissue that lines and protects the chest cavity and other organs as well. While other types of mesothelioma may result from asbestos exposure, pleural mesothelioma is the most common, making up approximately 75 percent of all mesothelioma cases.
Although mesothelioma is considered to be a rare cancer, between 2,000 and 3,000 people are diagnosed in the United Stated each year. The average life expectancy for a mesothelioma patient ranges between four and 18 months and understanding the signs of pleural mesothelioma development can make the difference in receiving an early diagnosis and a better prognosis. PleuralMesothelioma.com offers a complimentary packet containing important information on mesothelioma to diagnosed patients and their family. To receive this packet, simply fill out the form on this page and we’ll send you a packet overnight.
Due to the severe latency period associated with the development of mesothelioma, symptoms may take as long as 20 to 50 years to occur after being exposed to asbestos. Symptoms of pleural mesothelioma typically include:
Each pleural mesothelioma case is unique and patients may experience some or all of these symptoms. While receiving a checkup by a physician it is important to notify your doctor of any previous asbestos exposure so that he/she can check for signs of an asbestos-related disease.
Pleural mesothelioma is almost exclusively caused by asbestos exposure. In most cases, exposure occurs when asbestos-containing materials are damaged or disturbed and those in the area inhale airborne asbestos fibers. Once inhaled, the fibers become lodged in the mesothelial lining of the lungs and remain there for several decades. Overtime, the fibers create enough irritation to cause inflammation, cellular changes and the formation of tumors.
The development of mesothelioma is more likely to occur if a person’s asbestos exposure was in high quantities over a short period of time. When the use of asbestos was more prevalent, the shipyard, construction, automotive and manufacturing industries were the most common fields of employment where workers were exposed to the toxic substance. Family members of those who worked in these industries were and still are prone to developing pleural mesothelioma through secondary exposure to asbestos.
If a person has a history of being exposed to asbestos, it is recommended to avoid smoking cigarettes altogether. Smoking greatly increases your risk of developing lung cancer and although it does not increase your risk of developing pleural mesothelioma, it does compromise the lungs if you were exposed to asbestos.
Pleural mesothelioma is often difficult for doctors to diagnose because symptoms can resemble other, more common illnesses. Generally, a physician will want to rule out other conditions before focusing on mesothelioma. If pleural mesothelioma is suspected, diagnostic tests include X-rays and computerized tomography (CT) scans of the affected area. If these tests show signs of asbestos exposure, the doctor may perform a biopsy to confirm the findings.
In addition to confirming the presence of mesothelioma, a biopsy can help doctors determine the type of mesothelioma you have. When evaluating how far the cancer has progressed, X-rays, CT scans, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), and positron emission tomography (PET scan) are all useful tools in determining the stage mesothelioma.
Treatment options for pleural mesothelioma significantly depend on the stage of the cancer and the general health of the patient. Surgery may be used to remove part or all of the tumors if mesothelioma is detected during the early stage of development. Surgery can also be used to relieve the buildup of fluid in the lungs, allowing the patient to breathe easier.
Chemotherapy is one of the most common ways to treat pleural mesothelioma and kill cancerous cells. This type of treatment may be used before surgery to shrink the tumors, or after surgery to target cancer cells that could not be removed. The medications used in chemotherapy can either be sent throughout the body (systemic chemotherapy) or they may be targeted directly to the affected area.
Radiation therapy may be used to treat pleural mesothelioma and reduce any symptoms related to the cancer. However, low doses of radiation are typically used to avoid injury to the vital organs in the chest. Multimodality therapy, which includes surgery, chemotherapy and radiation, may help younger, healthier patients. This is an aggressive treatment plan and not all patients are candidates. This kind of treatment may slow the progression of pleural mesothelioma and lead to remission, but it is not a cure for mesothelioma.
According to the American Cancer Society, the five-year survival rate for malignant mesothelioma is about 6.4 10 percent, but it is gradually improving as new treatments are being developed. This survival rate refers to the percentage of people who survive five years or longer after their mesothelioma has been diagnosed. A number of people live far longer than five years after their diagnosis and the rate of survival is continuing to improve.
As with any cancer, the earlier pleural mesothelioma is detected and treated, the greater the chances of long-term survival will be. A number of factors affect pleural mesothelioma prognosis, and some of these, such as age or stage at diagnosis and length of latency period, cannot be altered or improved by some means. However, there are some prognostic factors that can be improved, such as the health of the patient and the quality of treatment.
If you would like to understand more about pleural mesothelioma and its development, please feel free to call 1-800-381-1772 to speak with a Patient Advocate who can further explain the process and send you additional information in the mail. They can also be reached by filling out the form on this page.