What is Pleural Mesothelioma and How Does it Affect the Lungs?

Malignant mesothelioma is a rare form of cancer that develops in the lining of the lungs, heart, abdomen, or testicles. It is caused by exposure to asbestos, and symptoms include shortness of breath, chest pain, cough, and fluid in the lungs. Pleural mesothelioma is the most common type of mesothelioma, accounting for 75% of cases. It forms in the thin membrane of tissue that lines the walls of the chest and covers the lungs.

As cancer cells grow and multiply, they form tumors scattered throughout the lining of the lung and rib cage, causing it to become thicker. This can cause pain from nerve attack in this area as well as difficulty breathing due to pressure on the lungs.The process of diagnosing pleural mesothelioma begins when a doctor evaluates the initial symptoms of the disease. An MRI can provide additional information about mesothelioma in people who are candidates for surgery. Mesothelioma is often an aggressive form of cancer with a poor prognosis, and patients with pleural mesothelioma have a median survival of only about 12-14 months with current treatments.Mesothelioma can affect people of any age, although it most commonly occurs in people age 50 or older.

Rarely, high levels of radiation, such as treatment for another cancer, can cause pleural mesothelioma. Inheritance of a mutant copy of the BAP1 gene has been shown to carry a much higher risk of developing mesothelioma. Emerging treatments include novel therapies such as immunotherapy, gene therapy and photodynamic therapy to treat pleural mesothelioma.Crocidolite fibers are most commonly associated with mesothelioma in humans. Because mesothelioma is so rare, not as much research has been done to guide treatment decisions as in other types of cancer.

If left untreated, mesothelioma often spreads to the lymph nodes and progresses rapidly, leading to death.Some people who develop mesothelioma don't remember being in contact with asbestos and may not have noticed that they were exposed to it.

Marissa Trafford
Marissa Trafford

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