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Pleural Mesothelioma: Cancer of the Lining of the Lungs

Aug 17, 2007
If you look in a medical dictionary you will read that a disease that affects the lining of the lungs, or lung pleura is called pleural mesothelioma. Often times you may hear physicians describe this type of mesothelioma as cancer of the pleura. A fairly generalized misunderstanding of pleural mesothelioma is that it a form of primary lung cancer and this I not the case.

In actuality, pleural mesothelioma affects the serous membranes of the lungs and thus the cancer settles into these membranes which line a number of organs located around the body's midsection - including the lungs. What is common about this cancer is that it the serous membranes of the lungs are most often affected and when this occurs, someone is said to have pleural mesothelioma.

It is common to hear the term asbestos related lung cancer. To be scientifically accurate this is a misnomer because mesothelioma does not originate in the lungs - it originates in the lining or membrane surrounding the lungs. A very common confusion is made with the diagnosis called Asbestosis which is a type of asbestos lung disease that does originate in the lungs so it is not surprising it is mistaken for mesothelioma.

As mentioned earlier, the serous membrane can be affected in organs other than the lungs and when this occurs in the abdomen, the disease is known as peritoneal mesothelioma. Pericardial mesothelioma is another disease caused when the serous membrane surrounding the heart is cancerous. The term secondary lung cancer is used to describe the situation when mesothelioma has spread from the membranes or lining encircling the lung, abdomen or heart organs to the lung itself.

When reading about pleural mesothelioma you will find that another name or description of it is asbestos lung cancer. Again, this is technically inaccurate as pleural mesothelioma does not stem from the lungs but from the membrane surround the lung. Research indicates that 75% of mesothelioma cancers are cases of pleural mesothelioma.

The opportunity for pleural mesothelioma to develop is created by inhaling asbestos fibers which put down roots, so to speak in the lining or pleura of the lungs. As the fibers stay embedded in the membrane they begin to create a situation of chronic inflammation which over times leads to the development off cancer cells and tumors. In some situations this can also lead to asbestosis.

The most common presentation of pleural mesothelioma cancer is seen as multiple tumor growths of the pleura which affect what is called the parietal surface (inside near the lung) and the visceral surface (outside away from the lung). It is more common to find that parietal surface involvement than visceral.
Data indicates there is slightly higher incidence of mesothelioma found in the right lung than the left and it is postulated that this is a result of the inherent larger size of right lungs. There is also data to show that lower lungs have more tumor growths than upper lungs. The theory that explains this is related to gravity and that there is a greater potential for the asbestos fibers to settle lower in the lungs.

Unfortunately, mesothelioma is a disease that can take decades to be discovered thus, because of this lengthy latency period, by the time a patient is diagnosed with pleural mesothelioma, the tumor growths are quite large. Because of the advanced development and size of these tumors, the lungs have become completed destroyed by them and the tumors may have progressed from the pleura of the lung to the heart and abdomen. It is not uncommon for this volatile disease to even attack the body's lymph node and blood systems.

Chest pain is by and large the most frequent symptom of pleural mesothelioma. The pain though frequently is not directly linked with the lung pleura but will appear to generate from the shoulder or upper abdomen. Another typical symptom of pleural meothelioma is shortness of breath described as dyspnea. A cough may occur as well as weight loss to the point of anorexia in particular patients.

As the pleural mesothelioma cancer tumors develop quickly and increase the pleural space, it begins to collect fluid which causes discomfort or pain. This pain is often the catalyst that sends someone to their physician for help and what sets up the situation for the diagnosis of the disease.

There is an assortment of treatment options and more are being developed these include: surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy.
About the Author
Tim Dillard is a marketing executive who has worked with some of the largest law firms in America. Dillard is currently the president of Dillard Local Branding (http://www.dlbllc.com), a Houston-based web design, Internet marketing and search engine marketing firm.
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