Malignant Pleural Mesothelioma: Symptoms, Causes and Treatment

Malignant pleural mesothelioma is a type of cancer that primarily affects people who have been exposed to asbestos—most often in an occupational capacity and often for many months or years consecutively. Generally speaking, it is a rare condition; however, the extensive use throughout the past century of a highly toxic carcinogen—called asbestos—has caused thousands of cases to surface in recent years.

Pleural mesothelioma is a subtype of the condition, which develops in the pleura—a thin, protective lining that coats the lungs and chest wall. Like other types of mesothelioma, it is considered terminal, though some of its victims do live for several years after diagnosis.

Symptoms of Malignant Pleural Mesothelioma

Early symptoms of mesothelioma are particularly confounding, because they are so similar in presentation to the symptoms of many other conditions. What’s troubling is that those other conditions are both common and relatively benign—including seasonal allergies and the common cold and flu. Signs that are indicative of a more serious problem often do not appear until the later stages of mesothelioma, when treatment is less likely to have much of an impact. Additionally, the disease usually takes many years—anywhere from ten to 50, or even more—to develop.

For all of those reasons, anyone that has experienced asbestos exposure over the past several decades needs to be aware of possible mesothelioma indicators. In the pleural variety, these may include persistent coughing, hoarseness of the voice, wheezing and shortness of breath. Persons having the primary risk factor of exposure are advised to seek immediate medical attention upon noticing any of the above.

Causes of Malignant Pleural Mesothelioma

The number one cause of mesothelioma is contact with asbestos—the more frequent the contact, the higher the risk of illness. Asbestos is a mineral used in a variety of manufactured goods. It is no longer considered safe for routine exposure to humans because of its carcinogenic properties.

Asbestos fibers are tiny but deadly. After being inhaled, they lodge themselves in the pleura and cause irritation and subsequent damage that result in scar tissue and sometimes tumors. When those tumors are malignant, a diagnosis of mesothelioma is given.

Treatment of Malignant Pleural Mesothelioma

There are several different treatments currently in use for mesothelioma patients and more currently being studied or developed. Sadly, none of these treatment methods are considered to be a cure. Instead, they are geared at prolonging the life expectancy of the recipient and/or improving that individual’s level of comfort and functionality.

Cancer treatment centers—medical facilities exclusively designated for the treatment of various types of cancer—are often the preferred location for receiving treatment. Popular traditional methods include radiation, chemotherapy and surgery to remove the tumor and affected tissue. Perhaps the most promising new treatment model—called immunotherapy—uses live cells or antigens to combat the cancerous tumor(s) by triggering an immune system response in the patient.