“What is pleural mesothelioma?” and “What are the symptoms?” are natural questions for someone to ask when they are diagnosed with pleural mesothelioma. The answer to the first question is that it is the most common type of malignant mesothelioma. Around two-thirds of those diagnosed with the disease have pleural mesothelioma. This form of mesothelioma affects cells in the pleura, which is the name given to the lining of the lungs and chest cavity. The pleura has two layers: the parietal layer (an outer layer that lines the chest cavity and diaphragm) and the visceral layer (an inner layer that lines the lungs).
The malignant pleural mesothelioma survival rate is generally low. To extend one’s life expectancy, it is important to recognize the symptoms as early as possible. Unfortunately, the signs and symptoms of mesothelioma cancer may not appear until 20 to 50 years after one’s exposure to asbestos. The signs and symptoms a person develops often depend on the type of mesothelioma cancer. As a result, pleural mesothelioma symptoms will be different than those for other types of the disease. There are also general signs and symptoms that are common to all types of malignant mesothelioma.
Asbestos Exposure and Pleural Mesothelioma
Following a pleural mesothelioma diagnosis, there are other questions and concerns that you will naturally want answers to. Likely, you’ll question how you got cancer of the pleura in the first place. People who are exposed to asbestos breathe in tiny asbestos fibers that enter the pleura of the lungs. Once in the lungs, these asbestos fibers then cause changes in pleural cells that cause them to become cancerous. Years of asbestos exposure at the workplace or even at home can cause pleural malignant mesothelioma.
Symptoms of Pleural Mesothelioma
All forms of mesothelioma are particularly dangerous because two or three decades can elapse between asbestos exposure and the onset of cancer symptoms. In addition, the early symptoms of mesothelioma cancer are non-specific, and these symptoms often resemble those of a simple and non-threatening viral infection.
Symptoms of pleural mesothelioma can include the following:
- Persistent coughing, rasping, difficulty in breathing or swallowing, and coughing up blood
- Weight loss
- Fever or night sweats
- Swelling of the facial area
- Shortness of breath, even when resting
- Severe chest pain, or pain in the rib area
- Wheezing or hoarseness
- Fluid in the cavity between the lungs and chest wall (pleural efflusion)
General Signs and Symptoms of Mesothelioma
It is important to recognize the signs of all types of mesothelioma, not just the pleural mesothelioma symptoms. The signs and symptoms of mesothelioma cancer that are common to all types include:
- Unexplained weight loss
- Changes in appetite
- Trouble swallowing
- Pain in the neck or face
- Blood-clotting abnormalities
- Low blood sugar
Many of these symptoms and signs of mesothelioma cancer develop in the later stages, after the cancer has spread or metastasized to other areas of the body. Mesothelioma cancer does not, however, typically spread to the bones, brain, or adrenal glands.
Symptoms of Pericardial Mesothelioma
Pericardial mesothelioma, which affects the lining of the heart, can cause the following symptoms:
- Chest pain, ranging from mild to severe
- Shortness of breath
- Heart palpitations
- Persistent cough
Symptoms of Peritoneal Mesothelioma
Peritoneal malignant mesothelioma, which affects the lining of the abdomen, can cause the following:
- Abdominal swelling
- Abdominal pain
- Bowel obstruction
- Ascites, or buildup of fluid in the abdomen
Pleural Mesothelioma Diagnosis
Diagnosis of pleural mesothelioma is typically made on the basis of your symptoms and on the results of a more thorough physical examination. Chest X-rays, CT scans, and MRI scans are all commonly used during diagnosis and will also help to determine an appropriate course of mesothelioma treatment. These procedures are crucial, as they will show whether or not the cancer has spread from its point of origin.
Diagnosis is confirmed with a needle biopsy, tissue biopsy, or both. During a needle biopsy, fluid is drawn from the area and is then tested for the presence of cancer cells. A tissue biopsy usually involves a relatively non-invasive surgical procedure called laparoscopy, in which a small piece of tissue is removed from the affected area to be tested for the presence of malignant cells.
Pleural Mesothelioma Treatment
Due to the nature of mesothelioma, diagnosis is often not made until the cancer has progressed to a stage at which curative treatment is not possible. As previously noted, this is one of the primary reasons why the malignant pleural mesothelioma survival rate is so poor. Most treatments for pleural mesothelioma are palliative and are carried out to relieve the symptoms and improve the patient’s quality of life. Conventional treatment options are limited to surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy. If treatment involves curative surgery, the patient must be in otherwise good health and the disease must not have spread far beyond its point of origin. In such cases, part or all of one lung may be removed.
Learn More about Pleural Mesothelioma
Contact Mesothelioma Treatment Centers today to learn more about the treatment and financial options if you or a loved one has been diagnosed with pleural mesothelioma. We can also provide information regarding both your legal and your medical rights. Pleural mesothelioma will drastically alter your life and the lives of your family members, both emotionally and financially. Obtaining an asbestos lawyer is the right step to protect your legal rights. When you contact us, we can put you in touch with an attorney who is experienced in cases involving pleural mesothelioma and who can review all of your legal options.