Pleural mesothelioma is a rare and malignant cancer caused by asbestos exposure. Mesothelioma tumors form in the pleura, a thin membrane of cells that line the lungs and chest wall.
How Is Pleural Mesothelioma Unique?
As the most common type of asbestos-related cancer, malignant pleural mesothelioma accounts for approximately 80 – 90 percent of all mesothelioma cases. Pleural mesothelioma differs from other types in four primary ways:
Location: Pleural mesothelioma is located in the linings of the lungs and the chest wall, known as the pleura.
Symptoms: As the disease mostly affects the lungs. The primary symptoms affect the respiratory system, such as shortness of breath, or the thoracic cavity, such as chest pain.
Treatment: The standard treatment for pleural mesothelioma is surgery, which often includes removal of some or all of the pleura and possibly part of the lung, combined with chemotherapy and/or radiation.
Survival: The prognosis for pleural mesothelioma is poor, with a median survival time of about 1 year. However, there are cases of long-term survival, in some cases as long as 20 years.
What You Need to Know About Pleural Mesothelioma
- Pleural mesothelioma is the most common form of asbestos-related cancer.
- About 2,500 people are diagnosed with pleural mesothelioma each year.
- Standard treatments include surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation.
- Asbestos inhalation
- Lung/chest lining (pleura)
- Common Symptoms:
- Chest pain
- Dyspnea (shortness of breath)
- Pleural effusion (fluid buildup)
- 6 – 12 months
What is the Prognosis for Pleural Mesothelioma?
As with all types of mesothelioma, prognosis for pleural mesothelioma is relatively poor. For patients who do not receive treatment, the median survival is only six months; however, certain types of treatment can improve life expectancy significantly.
The biggest factors affecting the prognosis of pleural mesothelioma patients are:
- Tumor size and staging
- Cell type (histopathology)
- Patient’s gender and age
- Stage of the cancer
What are the Symptoms of Pleural Mesothelioma?
Anywhere from 20 to 50 years can pass between the time a person is exposed to asbestos and when pleural mesothelioma symptoms begin to appear.
- Chest pain
- Shortness of breath (dyspnea)
- Fluid in the lungs (pleural effusion)
- Dry cough
Pleural mesothelioma can also be accompanied by a set of other conditions that could display symptoms of their own.
- Pleural plaque – a chalky substance that forms on the lungs due to calcification
- Diffuse pleural thickening (DPT) – Gray, fibrous tissue that fills in pleural spaces
- Asbestosis – Scarring of the lungs (fibrosis)
These conditions may also occur on their own in individuals who do not have pleural mesothelioma.
How is Pleural Mesothelioma Diagnosed?
The first step is usually to perform one or more imaging tests (x-ray, CT scans, PET, or MRI) to identify potential tumors. If such a tumor is detected, one or more blood tests may be performed to look for certain biomarkers. (high levels of specific substances in the blood). If these tests point toward the possibility of mesothelioma, the diagnosis will need to be verified through a biopsy – usually through a thoracoscopy, thoracotomy, thoracentesis, or mediastinoscopy.
What Treatments are Available for Pleural Mesothelioma?
All types of mesothelioma are treated using a combination of three types of therapy:
- Surgery – Cytoreduction surgery (also called “debulking”) is often performed with the intent of removing as many cancer cells as possible.
- Chemotherapy – A combination of chemotherapy drugs (usually pemetrexed [Alimta] and Cisplatin) are administered to kill remaining tumor cells.
- Radiation – A blast of targeted radiation therapy to shrink tumors in the body.
Mesothelioma Types, Pleural Mesothelioma, Symptoms of Pleural Mesothelioma