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Pleural Mesothelioma

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.

How Does Pleural Mesothelioma Develop?

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.

Pleural Mesothelioma Symptoms

Common symptoms of pleural mesothelioma often include:

Chest pain
Shortness of breath
Fluid around the lungs (pleural effusion)
Hoarseness or difficulty speaking
Blood clots (less common)




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