What is pleural mesothelioma?

Pleural mesothelioma manifests in the pleura, which is the tissue surrounding the lungs. It is the most common form of mesothelioma, accounting for about 75 percent of diagnoses. Following are common symptoms of pleural mesothelioma:

  • Persistent dry or raspy cough
  • Coughing up blood (hemoptysis)
  • Shortness of breath (dyspnea)
  • Pain in the lower back or rib area
  • Painful breathing
  • Development of lumps under the skin on the chest
  • Difficulty of swallowing (dysphagia)
  • Night sweats or fever
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Fatigue

Between ten and 20 percent of all pleural mesothelioma cancers are sarcomatoid mesothelioma, an extremely aggressive subtype of pleural mesothelioma with an elusive diagnosis. About five percent of patients diagnosed with sarcomatoid mesothelioma have desmoplastic mesothelioma, which is even harder to diagnose.

What causes pleural mesothelioma?

Pleural mesothelioma is linked to long-term, work-related exposure to airborne asbestos fibers. The disease has also been diagnosed in family members of people who worked in asbestos-contaminated environments and people who live in older homes constructed with asbestos products.

When microscopic asbestos fibers become airborne, they can be inhaled. Once in the lungs, the fibers can migrate and lodge in the pleura, causing irritation, chronic inflammation and scarring. In some cases, pleural mesothelioma develops.

Of those who contract pleural mesothelioma, about 80 percent are older men, partly because of their greater presence in industrial workplaces in the ‘60s and ‘70s and the disease’s long latency period.

What are some treatment options for pleural mesothelioma?

As with other cancers, treatment options include surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy. Because the average life expectancy of someone with the disease ranges from four to 18 months, depending on the age and overall health of the patient, doctors often recommend aggressive treatment. Known as multimodal therapy, it combines multiple treatments in quick succession.

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