What Is Pleural Mesothelioma and How Does It Develop? Pleural mesothelioma is a rare and aggressive type of cancer. It affects the cells that line the chest cavity and lungs and typically develop as a result of exposure to asbestos fibers. As a result, it is considered to be an ‘occupational hazard,’ affecting those who may have been exposed in a workplace environment.
It is also linked to environmental exposure, including some cases where environmental asbestos exposure has been higher than standard levels. It is important to understand the basics of pleural mesothelioma, including the causes, the signs and symptoms, the risk factors, and the treatments and prognosis associated with it.
Understanding the Basics of Pleural Mesothelioma
Pleural mesothelioma is a malignant cancer of the peritoneum or the cells which line the chest cavity and lungs. It affects the body’s pleura, which is the membrane that encases the lungs.
The mesothelium is a protective barrier, or sheath, that surrounds and supports the lung tissue, and it is essential to the exchange of oxygen into the bloodstream.
Unfortunately, when the cell becomes malignant, it can divide uncontrollably, growing and spreading to other areas of the body and leading to metastasis.
The Medical Cause Behind Pleural Mesothelioma
The primary cause of pleural mesothelioma is exposure to asbestos, a fibrous mineral that is widely used in industry and construction, which can cause extensive respiratory damage.
Asbestos exposure may occur from either occupational or environmental exposure, such as living in a home with asbestos-containing materials.
It is important to note that those who have been directly exposed to asbestos have a higher risk of developing pleural mesothelioma, as opposed to those who have only been exposed to environmental asbestos levels.
Uncovering the Development of Pleural Mesothelioma
It can take several decades for asbestos fibers to settle in the body and cause pleural mesothelioma. When the asbestos fibers come in contact with the pleura, they can damage the DNA in the cells and lead to the uncontrolled growth of cancerous cells.
Over time, this leads to the formation of tumors which can spread throughout the chest cavity and into the surrounding organs and tissue.
The Signs and Symptoms of Pleural Mesothelioma
Unfortunately, it can be quite difficult to detect the signs and symptoms of pleural mesothelioma in the early stages.
The symptoms may include chest pain, difficulty breathing, a dry cough, and fatigue. As the disease progresses, it can lead to an accumulation of fluids in the chest cavity which can cause an irregular heartbeat and high blood pressure, as well as respiratory infections.
The Risk Factors for Pleural Mesothelioma
The main risk factor for pleural mesothelioma is exposure to asbestos. It is important to note that those who were exposed to asbestos in a workplace environment are at the highest risk, as well as those who were exposed to environmental asbestos levels which were higher than standard.
Additionally, those with a family history of mesothelioma, a weakened immune system, or diabetes may also have an increased risk of developing the disease.
Diagnosis and Staging of Pleural Mesothelioma
A diagnosis of pleural mesothelioma usually begins by taking a thorough history and conducting a physical exam.
The doctor may then use imaging tests such as X-rays, CT scans, and PET scans to gain an image of the chest cavity and other areas.
A pleural biopsy, where a sample of the pleura is taken and examined under a microscope, may also be used to confirm a diagnosis. This can also be used to assess the stage and grade of the tumor, which is essential in developing an appropriate treatment plan.
Treatment Strategies for Pleural Mesothelioma
Treatment for pleural mesothelioma typically involves a combination of chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery. This can help to slow the progression of the disease, reduce symptoms and improve quality of life.
For those who may not be eligible for treatment due to advanced stages of the disease, palliative, and supportive care can help to alleviate symptoms, as well as provide emotional and spiritual support.
Exploring the Prognosis of Pleural Mesothelioma
The prognosis for pleural mesothelioma can vary depending on the stage and grade of the tumor. Unfortunately, due to the fact that the disease can take decades to develop, it is often diagnosed in advanced stages, which can reduce the potential for a positive outcome.
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However, with early diagnosis and treatment, it is possible to prolong life expectancy.
Pleural mesothelioma is a rare and aggressive type of cancer that is primarily caused by exposure to asbestos. It can take several decades for the fibers to settle and cause damage to the cells, leading to an uncontrollable growth of cancerous cells.
It is essential to understand the risk factors and seek medical attention as soon as the symptoms appear, in order to maximize the chances of a successful prognosis.