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What is Pleural Mesothelioma?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 12 September 2016
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Pleural mesothelioma is a type of cancer which involves the pleura of the lungs, along with the mesothelium, a layer of tissue which lines much of the inside of the body. This condition can be fatal if it is not identified and treated rapidly, and the prognosis for the patient can vary, depending on when the pleural mesothelioma is identified, how far the cancer has spread, and other factors such as the patient's general level of health. Treatment for this condition is usually supervised by an oncologist, a physician who specializes in the treatment of cancers.

Mesothelioma is a type of cancer which involves the mesothelium. There are several different types of mesothelioma, classified by the area in which the cancer originates, with pleural mesothelioma accounting for an estimated 75% of mesothelioma cases. This cancer can sometimes be difficult to identify, because the symptoms may lead a doctor to believe that a patient has a different medical condition, which can delay access to timely treatment for the patient.

The leading cause of pleural mesothelioma is asbestos exposure. Patients will usually develop asbestosis, an inflammation of the lungs, first, with pleural mesothelioma appearing much later. In patients with pleural mesothelioma, particles of asbestos have lodged in the pleura and surrounding mesothelium, irritating the tissue and contributing to the development of cancerous cells.

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Patients with this form of cancer usually experience symptoms like shortness of breath, bloody sputum, wheezing, coughing, fatigue, and anemia. They may develop pleural effusion, in which fluid fills the pleural cavity, making it even more difficult to breathe. People with these symptoms and a history of asbestos exposure should most certainly seek the attention of a doctor, making sure that the doctor is aware that the patient has been exposed to asbestos.

Diagnosis usually starts with a medical imaging study to look at the lungs, and a biopsy to take a sample of the tissue for analysis. If the patient has pleural mesothelioma, the pathologist will stage the cancer and provide recommendations. Treatment can include surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation, which will be tailored to the patient's individual situation. The treatment process can be grueling for the patient, and it is critical to have support from friends and family members who can assist with everything from rides to the hospital for radiation therapy to deliveries of entertainment like books or movies when the patient is too sick to leave the house.

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