What is Pleural Mesothelioma?
Pleural mesothelioma is cancer that affects the lungs’ cell lining, called pleura. Cancer causes genetic mutations in the cells surrounding the lungs which result in the disease. Annually, there are 3,000 new mesothelioma diagnoses, and pleura mesothelioma accounts for around 75 percent of the diagnoses.In 1890, physicians found the first patient with tumors in the lung’s lining. In the 1960s, J.C Wagner a scientist attributed the tumors to asbestos exposure. Hence, Pleural mesothelioma develops after a person inhales asbestos. The thin asbestos fibers are trapped in the lung’s lining, the pleura. Once stuck, the fibers can stimulate a carcinogenic process which could cause cancer within ten to fifty years. Scientists are still not sure how the process works, but they have several theories including, growth pattern overrides, cellular inflammation, free radical-induced damages and genetic mutations.
Causes of Pleura Mesothelioma
After asbestos exposure. In this light, smokers are more susceptible to the disease since smoking weakens the lungs. This heightens the risk of asbestos-related cancer. However, smoking does not increase the risk of pleural mesothelioma for anyone with a history of asbestos exposure. Genetics is also a significant factor since based on research, biological processes and genes influence pleural mesothelioma. This highlights why some people develop pleural mesothelioma after exposure, while others do not develop the disease even after exposure. Asbestos exposure occurs in constructions, demolitions, or during home repair and maintenance. Also, merely living with someone who works with asbestos poses a risk of exposure since the fibers could be trapped in their clothes, body or shoes.
In the first stage, Pleural mesothelioma includes chest pains and shortness of breath. The symptoms are a result of fluid buildup in the area surrounding the lungs. The condition is also known as pleural effusions since the tumors press against the chest wall and the lungs.
In the second stage, the tumors grow beyond the pleural lining, and they develop into the diaphragm and lungs. The chest pains may be more intense, and there may also be a pain in the upper abdomen and shoulder. Other symptoms in this stage include breathing issues and coughing which may worsen.
In the third stage, Tumors develop throughout the chest, and they exert more pressure on the chest wall and lungs. The stage is characterized by more pain and breathing issues, a continuous dry cough, a tight chest, weight loss, and fatigue.
In the fourth stage, Tumors have already covered the entire chest and in some cases have spread into other locations in the body. Due to the high pressure, the tumors exert on the chest, pulmonary symptoms such as shortness of breath could worsen.
Other symptoms include pain in the lower back, night sweats, and fever. Some patients may have a hoarse voice and may have difficulties in swallowing.
In most cases, physicians misdiagnose the disease because in the early stages, the symptoms are vague and it could take 10 to 50 years for cancer to develop after exposure to asbestos. Nonetheless, there are different procedures to determine the symptoms and to come up with a definite diagnosis of cancer. The process could however take several months.
At the time of diagnosis, symptoms cannot accurately depict cancer’s exact stage and how far it has progressed. Most patients are diagnosed in phase three, and four since the symptoms are pronounced in the later stages. Nevertheless, for better medical results, the symptoms should be addressed as soon as they develop.
The primary treatment options for pleural mesothelioma include radiation therapy, surgery, and chemotherapy. Often, physicians use the multimodal approach, where they combine different treatment options depending on the patient’s conditions, for better medical results.
If discovered in the early stages, surgery and chemotherapy could effectively increase the patient’s life expectancy. Nonetheless, the treatments may not effectively work on every patient. Therefore, physicians often recommend palliative treatment, to improve the quality of life and relieve the cancer symptoms.
There are also experimental treatments such as photodynamic therapy, immunotherapy, and gene therapy. The treatments may improve the survival rates and reduce the side effects of harsh cancer treatments. Patients are encouraged to apply for clinical trials to study the experimental treatments.