Malignant pleural mesothelioma is a form of cancer, relatively rare in occurrence. It develops in the mesothelium, which is the lining that protects most of the body’s internal organs. It usually takes place in the pleura, which is the outer lining of the lungs. The condition may also occur in other forms and locations such as the heart and its surrounding sac, the pericardium. Sometimes, it is found in the peritoneum, which lines the abdominal cavity.
What causes it?
Studies have shown that most people who contract the disease have had previous work experience in jobs that involve the frequent inhalation of or exposure to asbestos fiber or dust. People with family members who work in asbestos-related industries often get it by washing their clothes.
There have been a few cases, however, wherein it was observed in people who had never been exposed to asbestos. It can also be attributed to irradiation, Thorotrast, and the inhalation of certain fibrous silicates.
What are the signs and symptoms?
Shortness of breath, cough and chest pain are the most prominent symptoms. These occur because of all the fluid that accumulates in the pleural space of the lungs. There also may be fatigue, anemia, wheezing, hoarseness, or blood in the sputum or coughed-out fluid. If it gets to an extreme case, tumors may be present, and cause the lung to collapse or the condition to spread to other parts of the body.
Signs and symptoms usually appear twenty to fifty years after exposure to asbestos.
How is it diagnosed?
A chest x-ray or CT scan may point to the possibility of having malignant pleural mesothelioma. The diagnosis can be confirmed through a biopsy or a microscopic exam.
What are the treatment options?
There are three general treatment options. You can opt for surgery, which operates by removing the cancerous part, chemotherapy, which employs the use of drugs to combat the cancer, and radiation therapy, which uses rays with high energy to target and kill the cancerous cells.
When it comes to surgery, a patient can choose between pleurectomy or extrapleural pneumonectomy. The former is for those with the disease in the first two stages. It aims to remove all the tumors in their entirety. The latter is the removal of the lung itself and can only be carried out by a surgeon with remarkable expertise. Usually, the best solution is to combine the surgery with other procedures such as immunotherapy, gene therapy, or photodynamic therapy.
- If you are considering extrapleural pneumonectomy, you have to be a good candidate for it. Not all patients are advised to take this option. You will have to consult your doctor for advice if you fit the patient selection criteria.
- You must pass the liver function and renal function tests because it is not advised to go through with the procedure if you have liver or kidney disease. You must have adequate lung function as well.
- The disease must be limited to the same side of the chest where the mesothelioma occurs without penetrating the diaphragm or extending to the heart or involving the chest wall extensively.
- Age might also be taken as a minor consideration.
If you find yourself afflicted with malignant pleural mesothelioma, it is always best to consult your physician to talk about your concerns and which treatment options he recommends for you.