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Pleural Mesothelioma

Mesothelioma is a rare kind of cancer that attacks the body after exposure to asbestos. Once used commonly in the manufacturing of materials for homes, ships, and other structures, today, asbestos is highly regulated by the EPA. However, the cases of mesothelioma continue to rise. Mesothelioma also takes a long time to develop (typically 15-40 years), so patients today could have been exposed prior to the 1980s when asbestos was not highly regulated.
There are three kinds of mesothelioma, each attacking a different organ. The most common is called pleural mesothelioma. Pleural mesothelioma is cancer of the pleura, which is the lining of the lungs. Other kinds of mesothelioma affect the linings of the heart and abdomen. With all three types of mesothelioma, if the cancer goes untreated, it can easily spread to the surrounding organs or to other parts of the body via the blood stream. Please see “Pericardial Mesothelioma” and “Peritoneal Mesothelioma” for information about these cancers.
About ¾ of all mesothelioma cases are pleural mesothelioma. The average survival rate once diagnosed, according to one study, is less than a year.
When around airborne asbestos, it is easy to breath in small asbestos fibers. You may notice that your throat feels scratchy, but in most cases, you won’t notice any immediate reactions from breathing in asbestos fibers. Fibers fill the air whenever asbestos-contaminated products are disturbed (the same applies to naturally occurring asbestos). Asbestos fibers are microscopic, jagged particles. When you breathe them in, they travel into the lungs and can get stuck in the soft tissue lining – the pleural.
The lung actually has two parts to the pleura. The visceral pleura is the outside of the lungs themselves. This part of the lung is very soft, delicate tissue that protects the lung from abnormal particles. The parietal pleura is, essentially, a sack around the lung, lining the chest wall and diaphragm. This creates a pleural space. The lungs use this space to expand when you breathe.
When the jagged asbestos fibers enter the lung, they can get stuck in the pleura. The body tries to fix this problem, but the result is scar tissue that builds up in the pleural space, making it difficult to breathe since the lungs cannot expand properly. This environment with foreign objects and scar tissue creates the perfect environment for abnormal cell growth. The cells mutate, causing cancer, and these cancerous cells begin to grow quickly into tumors, further preventing you from breathing correctly.
Pleural mesothelioma builds up very slowly , as the scar tissue in the lungs is, at first, unnoticeable. Symptoms of pleural mesothelioma include shortness of breath, coughing, difficulty swallowing, fever, weight loss, and chest pain. That said, because these symptoms progress so slowly, more than 30 years or more in some cases, a patient might not notice them at all. In other words, the symptoms feel normal. Many patients do not catch mesothelioma until a late stage of development.
If diagnosed with pleural mesothelioma, there are a number of treatment options to try. If the cancer is contained in the pleura, one of the best options might be the removal of the cancerous area. Surgery isn’t the best option for everyone, however. You can also try radiation, chemotherapy, intraoperative photodynamic therapy, immunotherapy, and gene therapy. Only you and your doctor can decide on the best course of action for your body. For information about treatment, please see “Mesothelioma Treatment Options.”
You are at risk for developing pleural mesothelioma if you worked in an industry using this substance prior to 1980. Some of the main products manufactured with mesothelioma include the following: insulation, roofing, gaskets, piping, floor tiles, plaster, joint compound, shipbuilding products, and textiles. You’re also at risk if a family member worked in these industries, as asbestos readily sticks to clothing and hair (meaning it can be transferred home easily). In addition, you could be at risk if you live in a home built prior to 1980. You should have your home tested for asbestos to make sure that it is safe. Smokers are especially at risk, as smoking cigarettes weakens the lungs and complicates the chance of developing mesothelioma.
Another risk factor is level of exposure. If you’ve experienced exposure to asbestos for many years, you are more likely to develop mesothelioma and other asbestos-related health problems. The best way to protect yourself is to remove the asbestos from your environment. Exposure to asbestos does not automatically mean that you’ll contract mesothelioma, but the longer your exposure, the more likely you are to develop this condition.
Unfortunately, for many people, asbestos exposure occurred unknowingly at the workplace. Larger corporations conspired to keep the dangers of asbestos a secret and, as a result, many people were put at risk without consent. If you’ve developed pleural mesothelioma after exposure to asbestos that was not your fault, contact a lawyer today to learn about your rights. Please see “Legal Issues and Mesothelioma” for more information

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