What Is Pleural Mesothelioma And How Can It Be Diagnosed?

Pleural mesothelioma is a form of mesothelioma, a rare form of cancer which is usually, but not always correlated with exposure to asbestos. This form of the disease is the most common manifestation of mesothelioma, which arises in the pleura, which is the membrane surrounding the lungs; as such, it is often mistaken for lung cancer at first. While it does affect lung function once the disease advances sufficiently, it is distinct from lung cancer as it is usually thought of. Along with the pleura, mesothelioma may affect the pericardium (the membrane which surrounds the heart) and peritoneum (the membrane surrounding the organs of the abdomen).

The disease is often called “asbestos lung cancer,” which isn’t entirely off base given that the disease is usually due to asbestos exposure. However, since this cancer does not originate in the lungs and as such, it is not a true lung cancer, though it can and does spread to the lungs in many cases. Pleural mesothelioma is characterized by multiple tumors on the outer surface of the pleura, though they can also appear on the inside of the pleura.

Statistically, pleural mesothelioma tumors are slightly more likely to appear on the pleura near the right lung rather than the left – it is thought that this may be because of the larger size and thus larger pleural surface area of the right lung. The medical data also shows that tumors are more likely to appear near the bottom of the lung; this is due to the force of gravity, with asbestos fibers settling lower in the pleura over time.

Pleural mesothelioma tends to be diagnosed only fairly late in its progression since it causes few, if any symptoms in its early stages. By the time it is detected, the tumors are generally fairly large; at this point, they may be causing reduced lung capacity or may have already metastasized to other parts of the body. It should be noted, however, that not all pleural tumors are caused by this form of cancer.
Mesothelioma affecting the pleura can be difficult to diagnose, since its symptoms are similar to those of many common illnesses. These symptoms include coughing, weight loss, chest pains and shortness of breath. If you have been exposed to asbestos at any point in your life and you are experiencing any of these symptoms, see a physician as soon as possible for a thorough checkup. You could be suffering from pleural mesothelioma and not know – and as with any type of cancer, the earlier you’re diagnosed, the better your prognosis will be.

Check out this video for symptoms you should be looking for:

  1. Mesothelioma News as of August 12, 2015, 18 August, 2015

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