Definition

The pleura is a membrane. It lines the outside of the lungs and the inside of the chest. Pleural mesothelioma is cancer of the pleura.

Pleura of the Lungs

Pleura of the Lungs
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Causes

Cancer happens when cells in the body split without control or order. A mass of tissue can form when this happens. It is called a growth or tumor. The term cancer refers to malignant tumors. They can invade nearby tissue and spread to other parts of the body.

Mesothelioma is a type of cancer. It is almost always caused by being around asbestos. This is a loose mineral that is found in building materials and car parts. Even being around small amounts can raise your risk.

Risk Factors

Things that may raise your risk are:

  • Repeat exposure to asbestos, usually on the job
  • Living with a person who works near asbestos
  • Being around other hazardous fibers, such as erionite
  • Exposure to ionizing radiation

Symptoms

This cancer can take up to 40 years to happen. It may cause:

  • Problems breathing
  • Chest pain
  • Coughing
  • A lump in the chest wall
  • Weight loss
  • Fatigue
  • Sweating

Diagnosis

You will be asked about your symptoms and health history. A physical exam will be done. You may be referred to a health expert. A pulmonologist treats the lungs. An oncologist treats cancer.

It can be hard to tell this apart from more common types of lung cancer.

You will have these tests:

  • Blood tests—may show chemicals made by the tumor
  • Exam of pleural fluid for tumor cells
  • Biopsy—needed to confirm the diagnosis

Pulmonary function tests may be done to see if your breathing is effected

Pictures may be taken. This can be done with:

These same tests and others may also be used to find out if cancer has spread outside the pleura. It is important to know whether and how far the cancer has spread in order to plan treatment. This step is called the staging process. It helps determine the level of treatment.

Treatment

Pleural mesothelioma is usually treated with a mix of:

  • Chemotherapy—drugs that kill cancer cells
  • Radiation therapy—radiation that kills cancer cells and shrinks tumors
  • Surgery—to remove the tumor and some tissue around it

Pleural fluid caused by the tumor will be removed. This is repeated as needed.

Prevention

The only known way to prevent this cancer is to avoid asbestos and hazardous fibers.

To avoid exposure:

  • Use safety equipment and precautions on the job.
  • Take steps to avoid bringing asbestos dust home on clothing.
  • Do not attempt to remove asbestos material that may be in your home. Hire a professional.