Pleural mesothelioma is the most common type of this cancer. Cancer cells form in the mesothelial cells of the mesothelium. This membrane connects several internal organs. When a patient is diagnosed with this type of mesothelioma, they have developed at least one tumor in the pleura. This is the lining that protects the lungs and surrounds the diaphragm and chest cavity.
Tumors develop which result in a thickening of the pleura, restricting the patient’s ability to fill their lungs. Someone diagnosed with this type of mesothelioma will experience difficulty breathing and other types of respiratory issues. As with peritoneal mesothelioma, this type of mesothelioma is caused by prolonged exposure to asbestos.
More than 80 percent of all diagnosed cases of this type of mesothelioma are people who worked in industries with a high rate of asbestos use. These industries include shipyard, insulation factories and mining. It is commonly diagnosed between ages 50 to 70 and is considered an occupational hazard.
Symptoms of mesothelioma often do not occur until many years after exposure. Individuals experiencing symptoms often do not realize what they are because the symptoms resemble those of more common diseases. Anyone who worked around asbestos and develops symptoms such as coughing blood, continuous dry cough, difficulty swallowing, or shortness of breath should see their doctor immediately. Other frequent symptoms of mesothelioma include swelling in the chest, continuous pain in the chest or ribs, unexplained weight loss, pain while breathing, fever or night sweats, and constant fatigue. Any of these symptoms should also be discussed with a doctor.
There are four stages of this type of mesothelioma. If the disease is diagnosed in the early stages, the chances of survival are much higher. Once the disease reaches the last stages, the patient will normally live only about 18 months. If diagnosed in the early stages, surgery may be helpful. Oncologists will typically treat the disease with radiation and chemotherapy and surgery, depending on how widespread the cancer.
It is possible for a patient to develop a benign type of mesothelioma. When diagnosed, these tumors are usually removed with surgery. While these tumors are not cancerous, the physician will usually continue routine screening for mesothelioma to ensure it is caught as early as possible.
Diagnosis of this disease is usually through a CT scan or a chest X-ray. If these images detect an effusion or pleural thickening, the doctor may order a bronchoscopy. The physician may also do a biopsy to help with the proper diagnosis.
When diagnosed with this type of mesothelioma, a patient’s survival rate is very low. Depending on the stage of the disease when the diagnosis is made, a patient will typically live between six months to two years. Of course, there are always exceptions and medical research continues to find successful treatments and even a cure.
On average, between 2,000 and 3,000 cases of pleural mesothelioma are diagnosed every year. While a diagnosis is not an immediate death sentence, the survival rate for this disease is very low. Depending on when a patient is diagnosed, they will usually live another six months to two years.