Saturday, March 07, 2009

Pleural Mesothelioma

Malignant mesothelioma is a type of cancer caused by exposure to asbestos. The most common mesothelioma type is pleural mesothelioma. In instances of this, the lining of the lungs, called pleura is affected. Pleura consist of mesothelial cells. This lining cases the lungs and the chest cavity to provide them protection.

Though there may be various causes for pleural mesothelioma, the most common and well known cause is exposure to asbestos. Asbestos is a material which breaks down into very fine fibers on being beaten or disturbed. These asbestos fibers are so tiny that they get inhaled during breathing and travel to the pleural membrane. Pleura find it difficult to throw out these fibers and their remaining there for a long time results in malfunctioning of the membrane and eventually malignant tumors called pleural mesothelioma. The tumor cells multiply at a fast pace uncontrolled by our body system. This division makes the lining much thicker than what is required and fluid is formed between the layers. This further reduces lung capacity and symptoms of the disease like shortness of breath, persistent coughing, fatigue, sudden weight loss, difficulty in swallowing etc. occur.

It is very difficult to diagnose pleural mesothelioma at the initial stage because there are no specific symptoms for it. All the symptoms are common with the normal ailments and hence are mistaken for some other disease like influenza or pneumonia, which are not life threatening. The second problem with the disease is that the symptoms occur much later, and by the time they do occur the tumor has already grown bigger.

Along with medication, there are three options for treatment of pleural mesothelioma; surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy. Chances of the success of the treatment become more if the disease is diagnosed at an early stage and the tumor has not grown too big. In such cases surgical removal of the tumor along with radiation therapy or chemotherapy to destroy any remaining cancerous cells, can prove to be effective and save the patient’s life. But unfortunately if the tumor is not detected at an early stage then doctors go for palliative treatments only. This treatment helps the patients by relieving their pain and provides them some temporary comfort. The treatment includes pain relieving drugs, draining of excess fluid from the lungs and surgical removal of the tumor.

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