|When cancer strikes the lining
of the lungs - otherwise known as the pleura - the disease that results is
referred to as pleural mesothelioma. Technically speaking, the pleura is a
sac which contains the lungs as well as a thin membrane known as the
mesothelioma, which secretes a vital fluid that enables the lungs to expand
and contract during the breathing process.
Indeed, pleural mesothelioma is the most
common of the 3 types of mesothelioma, which also include the peritoneal and
pericardial varieties of the disease. More than 75% of all diagnosed
mesothelioma cases affect the pleura.
When an individual is exposed
to asbestos on a regular basis, whether it be through job-related activity
or other environmental issues, inhalation of loose, airborne asbestos fibers
can occur. These fibers travel to the lungs and become imbedded in the lung
lining, outside of the lungs and inside the ribs.
When these jagged particles settle in the
pleura, they cause inflammation. The inflammation, in turn, can lead to
dangerous cancerous tumors. In some cases, those who've inhaled asbestos
fibers will first develop the less-severe asbestosis, followed by
mesothelioma several years later.
Upon diagnosis, patients usually exhibit
multiple tumor masses affecting both the visceral (further from the lung)
and parietal surfaces (closer to the lung) of the pleura. The parietal
surface is more often affected than the visceral surface, and the right
lung, due to its larger size, often suffers more damage than the smaller
left lung. In addition, more asbestos tends to settle in the lower lungs
than the upper lungs.
These tumors often grow quickly in size and
can cover the entire lung cavity, making it very difficult to breathe and
causing excruciating pain. Also, in the advanced stages of pleural
mesothelioma, the cancer may spread to other nearby organs, including the
heart, abdomen, and lymph nodes.