More than 2,500 people in the United States are diagnosed with mesothelioma each year. This form of cancer is classified into three main types: pleural, pericardial, and peritoneal mesothelioma. Pleural mesothelioma accounts for over 75 percent of all cases. Because of the long latency period, specialists believe that there will be an increase of cases for the next 20 years. This deadly disease is triggered by exposure to asbestos.
What Is Pleural Mesothelioma?
Pleural mesothelioma, the most common type of asbestos cancer, attacks the membrane covering the lungs and chest cavity. The tumor often grows in size and covers the entire lung cavity. In advanced stages, the cancer can spread to other parts of the body. This deadly disease usually occurs in men who are over 60 years old and have a history of asbestos exposure.
Pleural Mesothelioma Symptoms
The first symptoms of pleural mesothelioma appear 20 to 50 years after initial exposure to asbestos, which can delay diagnosis. This form of cancer has uncommon symptoms that mimic those caused by minor ailments such as bronchitis, pneumonia, flu, and asthma. Most patients experience persistent coughing, severe chest pain, unexplained weight loss, vomiting, nausea, accumulation of fluid in the lungs, difficulty swallowing, hoarseness, and night sweats. Fever, fatigue, and extreme weakness may also occur.
Pleural mesothelioma usually causes shortness of breath, difficulty speaking, and wheezing. In severe cases of the disease, patients may experience jaundice, blood clots in the veins, and pulmonary emboli. The tumor is generally found only on one side of the lungs. Because of its rarity in general population, the disease often grows untreated for years.
What Causes Pleural Mesothelioma?
The only known cause of the disease is exposure to asbestos. This mineral was widely used in construction, industrial and manufacturing products. More than 110,000 schools in the United States still contain asbestos. Exposure to asbestos fibers is linked to high rates of mesothelioma and lung cancer in veterans. Asbestos is made of small fibers that can be easily inhaled. These fibers become lodged in the lungs, causing pleural effusion, chronic inflammation, and cancerous cell development.
Pleural mesothelioma is often diagnosed in auto mechanics, plumbers, hairdressers, oil refinery workers, sailors, firefighters, and electricians. People who mined asbestos, as well as those who worked in the Navy shipyards during and after World War II have been exposed to high amounts of asbestos. This naturally-occurring mineral was used in millions of products, from cement and adhesives to brake linings, drum brakes, paint, and cables.
Pleural Mesothelioma Treatment
After confirming a diagnosis, your doctor will try to determine the stage of cancer. If you have been diagnosed in early stages of the disease, he may remove the tumor surgically. Chemotherapy and radiation are typically used before or after surgery. Doctors use these procedures to shrink the tumors and kill cancerous cells. This kind of treatment may slow the progression of the disease and reduce pain.
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