Pleural Mesothelioma- Basic facts for you to know

Pleural Mesothelioma- Basic facts for you to know

Pleural mesothelioma is an aggressive form of cancer that attacks the mesothelial cells of the pleura, a membrane that covers the lungs and lines the chest cavity. Pleural mesothelioma accounts for approximately 75% of all mesothelioma cases. Pleural mesothelioma is most commonly unilateral (it affects only one side of the chest cavity}and  it occurs most commonly  in men aged between 60-80 years of age with a history of  previous asbestos exposure, often decades prior to diagnosis.

When pleural mesothelioma begins, it appears as a series of small white nodules which become diffuse, or widespread on the pleural surface. Gradually, these nodules begin to grow together and thicken, forming a “rind” that encases the lung and extends into the fissures or grooves of the pleura and the diaphragm. The tumor spreads by direct invasion of surrounding tissue, inwardly compressing the lung, and outwardly invading the chest wall and ribs.

Symptoms

The early symptoms of pleural mesothelioma are not, as a rule, specific enough to cause alarm, and in most cases are attributed to increasing age or overwork. Because of this, it may be several months from the onset of generalized symptoms until the first acute symptom, pleural effusion, occurs. At that time, progressive shortness of breath caused by the effusion, and chest pain caused by chest wall invasion may be in evidence. More general symptoms include dry cough, fatigue, night sweats and weight loss.

Diagnosis

On initial examination by a doctor, 80% to 95% of patients show pleural effusion on x-ray, the remaining percentage show little or no fluid. At first, the fluid is free-flowing, and is similar in appearance to that seen in other benign causes or in congestive heart failure, and because of this, these other possibilities are the first to be ruled out in the diagnostic process. Later, the effusion becomes “loculated”, or contained within a boundary in the pleural space, where the fluid does not move.

CT scans are more definitive, and may show not only the effusion, but the presence of pleural masses as well as the size certain lymph nodes; MRI is more sensitive in determining chest wall invasion and spread of disease through the diaphragm; PET may help in staging the disease for possible surgical resection by ruling out extension to the contralateral (opposite) lung or to other distant sites.

Analysis of pleural fluid yields a confirmed diagnosis in a relatively small percentage of patients, and needle biopsy offers only slightly better results. Today, the procedure of choice is the VATS (video-assisted thoracoscopy) procedure, which has a diagnostic yield of >95%, and allows for pleural biopsy, drainage of fluid and pleurodesis. VATS also ensures adequate tissue samples to facilitate a definitive diagnosis.

Staging

As with any type of cancer, staging plays a role in what treatment options a patient might be eligible for. Several staging systems are in use, however, the most widely used and most comprehensive is the TNM system associated with the International Mesothelioma Interest Group.

Treatment

Based on different of factors, several treatment options may be available including surgery, chemotherapy, radiotherapy (or combinations of all three, known as trimodal therapy), clinical trials, gene therapy immunotherapy etc. Surgery is used to remove as much tumor as possible and chemotherapy and or radiotherapy is used to eliminate the remnant cancer cells.  Once a diagnosis is reached, it is important that all possible options are discussed by the appropriate doctors with the patient and their family. Although pleural mesothelioma continues to be a difficult cancer to treat, more awareness of the disease, new and better diagnostics, and more successful treatment regimens help to improve its outlook.

Patients should educate themselves about the different mesothelioma types and treatment options and reach out to available resources to make coping with a mesothelioma diagnosis easier.

 

Bello kamorudeen.For more information on mesothelioma and mesothelioma types visit http://www.mesotheliomacorner.blogspot.com


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