Pleural Mesothelioma

If you have been diagnosed with pleural mesothelioma, you are not alone. This is the most common type of mesothelioma diagnosis, making up nearly 70 percent of all cases. Pleural mesothelioma begins in the lining of the chest that surrounds the lungs. This lining is known as the pleural mesothelium or simply as the pleura.

The pleura is a thin, double-layered membrane that lines the walls of the chest cavity, and surrounds the lungs. Between the two layers is a lubricating fluid that allows the lungs to slide against the chest wall as they contract and expand while you breathe.

Pleural mesothelioma is a type of malignant cancer. The tumor begins in the pleura and later expands to nearby organs and lymph nodes. This is in contrast to lung cancer, which begins directly in the lung instead of the pleura. However, like lung cancer, pleural mesothelioma is difficult to detect, and it is usually not diagnosed until it reaches the later stages. For this reason, it is important to notify your doctor early of any symptoms you may be experiencing.

Pleural Mesothelioma Causes

It is estimated that over 90 percent of all pleural mesothelioma cases are linked to the exposure of asbestos. Asbestos is a natural, fibrous mineral that was once used in a wide variety of industrial and commercial applications. Throughout the 20th century, millions of people have inhaled airborne asbestos fibers, and hundreds of thousands have died from mesothelioma or lung cancer caused by asbestos.

Asbestos fibers are light and easily carried through the air by a slight breeze. Once the fibers are inhaled, they become lodged deep in the brachial passages of the lungs. The exact mechanism through which the fibers cause pleural mesothelioma is unknown, but what is known is that it can take from 10 to 40 years after exposure for mesothelioma to develop.

Of all the work-related causes of cancer listed in the United States, asbestos exposure is number one. In addition to pleural mesothelioma, the fibers of this mineral are known to cause two other types of mesothelioma, several types of cancer and many non-cancerous diseases, including asbestosis, pleural plaques and pleural fibrosis. While developing a non-malignant, asbestos-related medical condition does not necessarily lead to mesothelioma, the level of exposure that causes such diseases means an individual is at much greater risk of developing a malignancy in the future.

Pleural Mesothelioma Symptoms

If you have a known history of exposure to asbestos and begin to experience unusual health symptoms, it may indicate that you have pleural mesothelioma. However, the symptoms of pleural mesothelioma are very similar to symptoms of several less serious diseases or medical conditions.

If you begin experiencing symptoms, visit your doctor for a checkup. The only way to know if your symptoms are from pleural mesothelioma is to undergo diagnostic tests performed by your doctor or a cancer specialist. It is also a good idea to disclose all of the details concerning your exposure to asbestos. The details are important because the length and level of your exposure increase or decrease the risk of developing mesothelioma. The time when the exposure first began also plays a role because pleural mesothelioma will sometimes not develop until up to 40 years later.

If you have pleural mesothelioma, you may experience one or more symptoms, but many people with the disease do not experience any symptoms during the early stages. The most common symptoms you may experience include the following:

  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Coughing or coughing up blood
  • Chest pain
  • Weight loss
  • Pleural effusion – a buildup of fluid in the lungs or pleura
  • Sweating, fever or chills

Pleural Mesothelioma Diagnosis

Pleural mesothelioma is a very rare condition, especially for those who have no known history of asbestos exposure. Because of this, the most accurate diagnosis you can receive will come from an experienced cancer or mesothelioma specialist. Such specialists are trained in several diagnostic methods that are unique to cancer and mesothelioma. While you may initially visit your general practitioner to discuss symptoms you have been experiencing, if your doctor thinks you may have mesothelioma, you or your doctor should suggest moving on to a specialist as the next course of action.

The first step in diagnosing pleural mesothelioma is providing the doctor with a complete medical and work history, including any known asbestos exposure that occurred on or off the job over your entire employment career. The next steps are a general physical examination and chest x-rays. X-rays are useful in locating abnormalities within the chest cavity. If any abnormalities are present, then more sophisticated diagnostic imaging will be ordered, such as a CT scan or MRI. These types of electronic imaging tests will give a more accurate picture of what is happening inside you.

If a tumor is located through the diagnostic imaging tests, further diagnostic measures will be taken. Specific tests used to determine the presence of pleural mesothelioma include a biopsy of tissue or a thoracentesis. A thoracentesis involves the removal of pleural fluid through a needle or catheter and the subsequent lab analysis of the fluid. Both of these tests are usually performed on an outpatient basis using only a general anesthesia.

When a biopsy is performed, it is also done with a needle. The needle will be inserted through your chest wall and directly into the suspected malignant tumor. The tissue and fluid samples are tested in a medical lab through a process known as immunohistochemistry, which is used to identify abnormal cells.

If no definite diagnosis can be made after these procedures, your specialist may order further tests that are more invasive and may require surgery. One of these tests is a thoracoscopy. A thoracoscopy is the insertion of a long, thin tube with a light on the end that can be used to directly view the interior of your chest cavity. The tube may also have a camera attached to make viewing more efficient.

It is imperative that you contact an experienced mesothelioma attorney to assess your situation and prospective claim for compensation, and we encourage you to contact the offices of Goldberg & Osborne today. Simply call 1-800-THE-EAGLE (1-800-843-3245) or fill out our online case form for your free, no obligation evaluation. We work at no cost until we win your case!


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