Pleural mesothelioma is a type of cancer that is caused by by inhaling asbestos fibers. It forms around the linings of the lungs and is the most common type of mesothelioma.
Pleural Mesothelioma Explained
This type of cancer accounts for nearly 75% of all the mesothelioma diagnoses that take place. Asbestos fibers become lodged in the lining that surrounds the lungs causing genetic mutations in the surrounding cells. It has been estimated that those with type of mesothelioma are expected to live anywhere between 12 and 21 months. Life expectancy will vary depending on what stage the cancer is in and what treatments are received.
Extrapleural Pneumonectomy – This is surgery that will remove the lung that has cancer in it, as well as the lining. This is actually one of the most common types of treatment when the disease is in stage 1 or stage 2.
Pleurectomy with Decortication – The lung is not going to be removed with this type of treatment. Rather, the cancerous tumors will be removed along with the diseased pleura. Less extreme than an EPP which removes the lung, survival rates are about the same in patients.
Chemotherapy – The most common drugs that are used are alimta and cisplatin. Many times this type of treatment will be utilized after a surgery.
Radiation – Radiation only targets the cancerous tumor, leaving the lung itself unharmed. Most specialists will tell you that this is the least invasive type of treatment that will be available to you.
Symptoms of Pleural Mesothelioma
If you are suffering from pleural mesothelioma then you may have a variety of different symptoms. Some of these symptoms may be seen with illnesses that may be common to you. These could include a fever, having a hard time breathing, or even coughing all of the time. When you have symptoms like this, and you have been exposed to asbestos in the past, it’s important that you speak with a doctor. Some of the other symptoms that you may experience could include:
- Pain in your back
- Shortness of Breath (dyspnea)
- Losing weight
- Face or arm swelling
- The buildup of fluid
- Pain in your chest
- Coughing that is painful or even dry
- Finding lumps in your chest
- Blood when you cough
This type of cancer will be difficult to find because many of the symptoms are seen with illnesses that are more common. It is difficult to identify this type of illness because it is very rare. It may be difficult for some doctors to consider this as a possible diagnosis. But, there are more and more effective ways to identify this disease thanks to research that is being conducted.
Diagnosis of Pleural Mesothelioma
When it comes to diagnosing this type of cancer, there are a number of tests that can be completed. These will include X-rays or even CT scans. If a tumor is found then the doctor will complete a biopsy of this tissue. This is used to determine if there are cancerous cells. Biopsies are often 96% accurate at detecting this type of cancer.
Can It Spread?
These cells can spread to the lymph nodes in the body. When this happens the cancer can spread to other organs in the body. It is not uncommon for this to spread to your heart and even your diaphragm. While it is not as common, it has been found to spread to the brain as well.
A biopsy can help the doctor to determine what stage the cancer is in. The stages range from stage 1 to stage 4.
Stage 1 – The cancer is only in the lining of the lungs.
Stage 2 – It has spread to the lung, part of your diaphragm and even the lymph nodes surrounding the area.
Stage 3 – More lymph nodes have been affected and the organs near the lungs are also becoming affected.
Stage 4 – Other organs are impacted and the lymph nodes are completely affected.
Causes of Pleural Mesothelioma
It is important to understand that the only cause of pleural mesothelioma is being exposed to the fibers of asbestos. This mineral has been found within different products that were made before the 1980’s. Many times individuals were exposed to this when they were working. However, there may be times when individuals may have asbestos in their homes. There have even been some studies that have shown that being exposed to asbestos could alter genetic makeup that makes them more likely to develop this cancer. But, this is still being investigated.
- When asbestos is inhaled the sharp particles can become stuck in the inner or outer linings of the pleura.
- It is not possible for your body to get rid of all the fibers and they can cause damage and scarring to the lining.
- The cells that are damaged are not working properly so they do not receive any signals that tell them to stop creating and dividing. They continue to grow in numbers and they create tumors. It may take up to 50 years to develop this type of cancer.
When mesothelioma develops in the pleura it will spread fast because of how close it is to other organs. Most of the time it is going to start in the lining that surrounds the lungs and then it will spread into the lung, the wall that surrounds your chest and eventually into your diaphragm.
Veterans and Pleural Mesothelioma
It has been found that the largest group of individuals with this type of cancer are veterans. This is especially true for individuals that served in the Navy. Asbestos was used throughout various vessels, vehicles used by the military and even in bunkers. It was not possible for individuals to avoid breathing this in. Because of this exposure, the VA actually gives veterans suffering from mesothelioma specific benefits.
- Disability benefits to help cover the cost of missed work, travel expenses and even treatment.
- You will want to find a specialist to help you with this disease.
- There are a number of specialists within the VA health system that specialize in treating this disease.
Surgical Treatment Options
Extrapleural Pneumonectomy (EPP)
This is a common treatment for individuals that are dealing with this type of cancer in stage 1 or stage 2. When this surgery is complete the lung with cancer will be fully removed. The lining that goes around the lung, diaphragm and even the heart is also going to be removed.
The goal of this treatment is to remove the cancer. If all of it cannot be removed then the specialist will work to remove as much as possible. Chemotherapy may be used before or after the surgery.
This can be used to remove the pleura that has been affected. Believe it or not, this can be used in later stages of the disease in order to help the patient breath better. This treatment option will help decrease the amount of fluid that is building up within the pleura. If there are tumors on the lung then they will also be removed. This procedure was actually perfected by Dr. Robert Cameron so it is now very effective.
Non-Surgical Treatment Options
This can be very effective for patients when alimta and cisplatin are used together. These are the medications that are used together in most cases.
Alimta has been approved by the FDA but there are doctors that will use other types of medications because treatment options are limited with mesothelioma. Patients that are dealing with this type of mesothelioma are often going to have a catheter that will place the chemotherapy directly into the tumor. This is very common for stages 1 and 2.
While radiation may be used before, or after surgery, it is very important to understand that this is not a cure. However, it can help decrease the chances of the cancer returning. This treatment option will be used when the stage of cancer has progressed because it can help decrease pain and pressure from the tumor. Radiation has been found to be effective at decreasing the size of the tumor.
Each patient is different when it comes to treatment. A specialist can help you determine what treatment options will be the best for you.
The amount of time that an expected individual may live with this type of cancer is called the prognosis. There are actually several factors that can come into play when this is looked at.
- The type of cells
- What stage the cancer is in
- The age of the patient
- What type of health the patient has
- Treatment that is given
The type of treatment that will be given is going to depend on the person’s diagnosis. In many cases, if the patient receives several types of treatment they may have more success. Studies have also shown that surgery can help to increase the length of life someone can expect. Of course, when this cancer is detected early the patient may also have a better outcome.