Pleural mesothelioma is the most common form of mesothelioma, comprising roughly three-quarters of all mesothelioma cases. It is much more common than peritoneal mesothelioma, which affects the abdomen. Pleural mesothelioma affects the pleura, a sheet-like, double-layered lining attached to the inside of the chest wall and the outside of the lungs. The space between the two layers is lubricated with a fluid that circulates within the lining. This allows smooth movement of the lungs and other organs in the chest during breathing and general movement.
When microscopic asbestos fibers enter the lungs through inhalation, some can eventually become embedded in the pleural mesothelium. In some people, the asbestos fibers severely irritate the mesothelial tissue. Eventually, cancerous tumors and nodules develop in the chest near or on the pleura. Over time, the layers of the pleura, which are typically very thin, can begin to thicken. Pleural effusion, or the accumulation of fluid between the chest wall and the lungs, almost always develops in those with pleural mesothelioma. Pain and discomfort are typically associated with pleural effusion. Severe pain may be a sign that malignant tumors have spread into the chest wall, lungs, and surrounding areas.
Symptoms of Pleural Mesothelioma
Symptoms of all forms of mesothelioma typically do not develop until the disease has reached relatively advanced stages. The most common symptoms of pleural mesothelioma are lower-back aches, back and side-chest pain, and difficulty breathing (dyspnea).
Other symptoms include:
- Shortness of breath
- Trouble swallowing
- Weight loss
- Swelling of the face and arms
Unfortunately, many of the symptoms of pleural mesothelioma are similar to those of other diseases, making diagnosis of this rare disease that much more difficult. If you or a loved one is experiencing any of the above symptoms - especially if there is a known history of asbestos exposure - it is important to see a physician as soon as possible. Early diagnosis is one of the most important factors in battling mesothelioma.