Pleural mesothelioma is an aggressive cancer that develops in the mesothelium membrane that lines the lungs and the chest cavity. Pleural mesothelioma is the most common form of this rare cancer, accounting for about 75 percent of the estimated 3,000 cases diagnosed each year in the United States.
What Causes Pleural Mesothelioma?
Exposure to asbestos is the only known cause of pleural mesothelioma. When inhaled, microscopic asbestos fibers can lodge in the mesothelium membrane, causing irritation and scarring. However, mesothelioma does not typically develop until 15 to 60 years after exposure, making the disease difficult to diagnose.
Most pleural mesothelioma patients were exposed to asbestos on the job or as part of their military service. Known for its heat-resistant properties, the naturally occurring fibrous mineral was used prior to the 1990s in a wide variety of household and industrial materials, including:
- Roofing and siding shingles
- Floor tiles
- Automotive brakes and clutches
- Gaskets and packing
- Lab equipment
- Ceiling tile spray-on coatings
- Gaskets and packing
Those at greatest risk of exposure include industrial workers, electricians, plumbers, mechanics, construction workers and veterans. However, family members of workers may also have been exposed to “take-home” asbestos on clothing, uniforms, hair and skin. There is no safe level of asbestos exposure.
Pleural Mesothelioma Symptoms
Symptoms of pleural mesothelioma may not appear until decades after a person was exposed to asbestos. Even then, they may be mild at first, easily confused with less severe respiratory conditions such as the flu. Some of the common symptoms include:
- Pain in the chest
- Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
- Fluid buildup around the lungs, known as pleural effusion
- Difficulty swallowing
- Lumps under the skin on the chest
- Chronic, dry or painful cough
- Weight loss or loss of appetite
One of the first problems that pleural mesothelioma patients face is a buildup of fluid around the lungs, known as pleural effusion. This fluid buildup can cause symptoms such as trouble breathing or a dry cough. At first, a doctor may simply treat the pleural effusion without making the connection to mesothelioma. This is why it is crucial to talk to your doctor about your history of asbestos exposure at the first signs of respiratory problems.
Diagnosing Pleural Mesothelioma
Because pleural mesothelioma is rare, many cases are not identified until the cancer has reached the late stages. However, there are some common tools and procedures doctors can use to help with a diagnosis at the first signs of the disease, including:
- Imaging tests such as X-rays, MRIs and CT scans to identify potential locations of any tumors
- Thoracentesis to drain and test the fluid surrounding the lung
- A biopsy to take a sample of the affected tissue
Your doctor will likely use a combination of these diagnostic tools to rule out other diseases and ultimately make a diagnosis. No matter what the doctor determines, if you have been exposed to asbestos, you should also seek a second opinion from a mesothelioma specialist.
Pleural Mesothelioma Treatment Options
The earlier a pleural mesothelioma diagnosis is made, the more treatment options a patient typically has. For example, surgery is most likely to be effective in the early stages when a person is in better health.
Overall, treatment for pleural mesothelioma is considered palliative, aimed at making the person more comfortable and prolonging life expectancy. Treatment may include:
- Clinical trials
- Holistic treatments
In most cases, doctors take a multimodal approach, using a combination of treatments that are tailored to the patient. Before you begin any treatment, you should talk to your doctor about the pros and cons, as well as the side effects.
Prognosis for Patients with Pleural Mesothelioma
The median survival time for people diagnosed with pleural mesothelioma is 12 to 21 months, according to the American Cancer Society. The prognosis varies based on the stage of the cancer at diagnosis, the type of cancer cells found, and the age, health and gender of the patient.
Compensation for Pleural Mesothelioma
Malignant pleural mesothelioma is an expensive disease to treat, and its effects can take a toll not just on the patient but on the entire family. Many caregivers are forced to stop working to provide full-time support for their loved ones. However, financial compensation is available for those who are coping with asbestos diseases.
Companies that manufactured and sold asbestos products understood the dangers of this carcinogen but failed to warn workers. Now, people who have been diagnosed with asbestos diseases or lost a family member to such an illness can demand compensation from these companies or the bankruptcy trusts they set up for victims. Compensation may include:
- Payment for medical bills, including expenses related to surgeries, hospitalizations, ongoing treatment and in-home care
- Compensation for lost wages and your diminished earning capacity if you had to quit working after your diagnosis
- Damages for physical and emotional pain and suffering
- Payment for funeral and burial expenses in cases involving the wrongful death of a loved one
In addition, mesothelioma patients may be eligible for veterans’ benefits, Social Security Disability benefits or workers’ compensation payments, depending on the circumstances of their case. A knowledgeable asbestos attorney can help you explore all your options for compensation and manage your claims to take the burden off you and your family.
A consultation with an attorney is free, and there is no charge to handle your claim unless the attorney recovers compensation for you. To speak with a knowledgeable mesothelioma attorney about your options for compensation, contact our partners at Mesothelioma Help today.
Need Help After a Pleural Mesothelioma Diagnosis?
Although mesothelioma is a relatively rare cancer, you should know that you are not alone in this fight. Mesothelioma Help is a trusted resource center for mesothelioma patients and their families. The organization connects patients with:
- Respected medical experts and specialized mesothelioma treatment centers
- Knowledgeable lawyers with decades of experience helping mesothelioma patients recover compensation
- Fellow patients and caregivers who understand what you are going through
- Latest information on research and clinical trials
Visit Mesothelioma Help today to learn about your right to compensation and get connected with the medical support you need to battle this aggressive asbestos cancer.