Pleural Mesothelioma at a Glance: Cause, Symptoms, Treatment and Outlook

Pleural mesothelioma is a tragic and devastating illness—not only because of its poor prognosis but also because of the pure senselessness surrounding its primary cause. The article below offers a comprehensive summary of that cause, in addition to thesymptomology, treatment course and medical outlook of a disease that affects more than 3000 Americans each year.

What causes pleural mesothelioma?

The primary cause of mesothelioma—found in approximately 90% of all diagnosed cases—is exposure to asbestos. Asbestos is a fibrous, natural mineral found in rocks and soil. It was mined and used to manufacture consumer products, ranging from automotive parts to small kitchen appliances, from the mid-1800s all the way up until the 1980s. What most Americans did not know before that time is that asbestos is also a toxic and dangerous carcinogen—or cancer-producing substance—that would ultimately result in thousands and thousands of innocently lost lives.

The majority of those suffering from asbestos-related illnesses—including mesothelioma, as well as other cancers—were exposed to asbestos at work. Industries that were most likely to experience consistent and frequent asbestos exposure include construction and several branches of the U.S. military.

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms of pleural mesothelioma are easily confused with those commonly associated with many minor and non-life-threatening conditions. Because of this ambiguity, many people experiencing symptoms of early-stage mesothelioma fail to heed the warnings that their bodies provide, resulting in the late-stage diagnosis of almost all cases. Symptoms may include coughing and wheezing, fatigue and chest pain, among others. Anemia is also often present.

How is mesothelioma treated and what is its prognosis?

Sadly, the mesothelioma life expectancy rate is notoriously poor. In fact, even “survivors” of the disease are not considered to be “cured,” as there is no known cure for mesothelioma. Those rare few who experience remission from this extremely aggressive form of cancer are both extremely fortunate and few. A mere ten percent of those affected by the disease survive past the second year after diagnosis.

Again, the poor prognosis of this particularly deadly type of cancer has much to do with the diagnostic difficulties that fail to detect it while still in its earliest stage. Once the disease has progressed into the later stages, it is no longer localized to a single or even multiple tumors contained within one affected organ. Though mesothelioma starts in the region of the chest and lungs, once it has progressed into stages two and three, it has spread beyond that initially afflicted area—thus, making it much more difficult to treat. Stage-Three Mesothelioma—which has metastasized, or spread to other organs within the body—is virtually impossible to treat with any lasting effectiveness, leaving the victim with an expected lifespan of only a few months or so.

Common, traditional treatments for mesothelioma include surgery to remove tumors and surrounding tissue, as well as chemotherapy and/or radiation to kill cancer cells affecting it.