Pleural Cancer

Pleural cancer is the abnormal growth of tumors on the pleurae, which may be beningn or malignant in nature. The malignant pleural cancer is termed as pleural mesothelioma (in the lungs) associated with asbestos exposure.

Symptoms of the Pleural Mesothelioma

The symptoms often mimic other diseases, some cardiac conditions and pneumonias of unknown etiology. The symptoms include:

  • Trouble swallowing
  • A harsh voice
  • Shortness of breath
  • Persistent cough
  • Blood in sputum
  • Weight loss and fever
  • Swelling of the face and neck
  • Decreased appetite
  • Superior vena cava syndrome
  • Phrenic nerve paralysis

What Causes Pleural Mesothelioma?

  • The primary cause of pleural mesothelioma is exposure to asbestos. Any individual who inhales asbestos is known to develop pleural mesothelioma. As the asbestos passes through the respiratory pathway, they are trapped in the pleural region (lining of the lung).
  • The other risk factors that make people more likely to develop pleural mesothelioma are smoking as it weakens the lung and other one is genetic factors.
  • Some minerals that resemble asbestos in structure, known as asbestiform minerals are also known to cause the disease. Examples of the asbestiform minerals are erionite and taconite.

Getting a Pleural Mesothelioma Diagnosis

There are certain tests and procedures to diagnose pleural mesothelioma in the early stages, but it is often impeded by the fact that the symptoms are confused with other diseases. One reason pleural mesothelioma is so tough for doctors to diagnose is that pleural effusions are symptoms of many more common diseases, including pneumonia, tuberculosis, kidney disease, and lung cancer.

The process involved in diagnosing the patient for pleural mesothelioma is:

  • Medical history: Obtaining clear details about symptoms and other health issues.
  • Physical examination: The doctor will thoroughly examine to know whether the patient has pleural effusion.
  • Pulmonary function tests (PFTs): These tests provide complete evaluation of the respiratory system and identify the severity of pulmonary impairment.

Imaging tests:

  • Chest X-ray: It will capture several signs of the pleural mesothelioma.
  • Computed tomography (CT) scan: It scans and provides many detailed cross-sectional images.
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan: It produces high level details of pleural mesothelioma, as well as its spread in other regions of chest like diaphragm (breathing muscle) or mediastinum.
  • Positron emission tomography (PET) scans: It produces 3-dimensional, color images of the functional processes while indicating the stage and growth of the pleural mesothelioma.
  • PET-CT scan: Combination of both PET and CT scan.

Biopsy procedures: The procedure to remove samples is known as biopsy and there are different types of biopsy procedures to identify the pleural mesothelioma.

  • Thoracentesis: A needle is used to collect a fluid sample from the pleural cavity of patients with pleural effusion. 
  • Needle biopsy: This is especially for the small sample. It uses a long, hollow needle to extract a small tumor sample.
  • Open surgical biopsy: If the doctor requires a large sample then it is removed through an incision in the chest.

Blood tests:

By collecting blood sample, the doctors will identify certain substances called biomarkers, in the patient’s blood. The levels of biomarkers are called soluble mesothelin-related peptides (SMRPs). SMRP concentrations are higher in pleural mesothelioma patients than healthy people, making the MESOMARK test useful for identifying patients with mesothelioma and measuring their response to therapy.

What is the Treatment given to Pleural Mesothelioma?

As there is no cure for the Pleural Mesothelioma but with the treatment options the disease can be managed. Some of the tumor management and treatments include:

  • Surgery
  • Chemotherapy
  • Radiation therapy
  • Alternative and Complementary Therapies

How to Prevent Pleural Mesothelioma?

The only way to prevent pleural mesothelioma is to avoid asbestos exposure. People who work at mines, gas masks factories, railroad and who are involved in construction and ship builders are more likely to develop Pleural Mesothelioma along with their family members.

  • To avoid the exposure one must follow certain steps like:
  • Using proper safety equipment at work
  • Use safety measures like avoid bringin

Side Effects of Pleural Mesothelioma

The side effects vary from patient to patient and the type of treatment undertaken. The common side effects observed in Pleural Mesothelioma patients are:

  • Damage to healthy cells and skin changes
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Shortness of breath
  • Cough
  • Fatigue and nausea


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