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Plueral Effusion - One Sign of Mesothelioma

Oct 11, 2007
Asbestos was once used in building materials and certain textiles as a retardant to flames. Older buildings have a strong possibility of containing the substance, which is now removed during remodeling of structures for health reasons. While asbestos certainly protected a building and its occupants from fire by keeping the flames from spreading, many people who have been in contact with asbestos began to exhibit serious illness. Even today, crew members who are paid to remove asbestos have a high risk of becoming sick with a specialized from of cancer called mesothelioma. It's difficult to peg someone with the disease until it has been around for a while, when specialized symptoms begin to show up in addition to general symptoms, which could be reminiscent of a common cold or flu.

In this disease, cancer cells attack the protective coverings surrounding organs, called the mesothelium. The most common of these to be attacked is the pleura, the outer lining of the lungs, because asbestos is often inhaled. Other common places to find mesothelioma cells are in the peritoneum and pericardium, the lining of the abdominal cavity and heart, respectively. These cells, after causing a display of general symptoms, begin to cause a display of symptoms that are more specialized, though it does take some time. One of these symptoms is called pleural effusion.

Pleural effusion is one of the more common specialized symptoms for mesothelioma, and catching it means you should take a biopsy to make sure whether or not cells are to blame. Pleural effusion is an accumulation of fluid between the parietal pleura. This is the pleura (protective lining) covering the walls of the chest and the diaphragm. The visceral pleura, or that of the lungs, will also begin to accrue fluids.

When someone is suffering from the disease, these two linings will be covered in mesothelial cells. These cells are always covered in a thin layer of fluid on their own, in order to act as a lubricant between the lungs and the walls of the chest. Excess fluid is then absorbed into the blood and the lymph vessels in order to maintain a balance. Of course, this "balance" often results in far too much fluid in that area. This is when an effusion occurs.

There are two different types of pleural effusions: transudates and exudates. A transudate is a clear fluid that forms because of an imbalance between the normal production and removal of fluids in the area. Diseased cells, though, don't necessarily cause it, which means it is probably not a sign of mesothelioma at all. In fact, the most common cause of transudates is heart failure, not cancer. The second type, the exudates, is the type that results from mesothelioma. This fluid is often cloudy because it contains a number of cells and proteins. In order to find out which effusion a patient is suffering from, a sample of the fluid needs to be taken and tested.

Before that, though, symptoms need to occur in a patient that reveals that he or she is suffering from pleural effusion. Normally, they will have shortness of breath, called "dyspnea", and sometimes a mild or sharp pain in the chest region. Doctors will not be able to hear breathing with the use of a stethoscope, and tapping the chest will reveal dull rather than hollow sounds. A simple x-ray is usually adequate to find pleural effusion, and to further test for mesothelioma, a needle biopsy of the pleura needs to be taken. An open surgical biopsy can also be used, but it is normally limited to more severe cases, or cases where the use of a needle would be difficult.

Pleural effusion is one of the best ways for medical officials to find and test for the disease. Because it is a cancer that does not have many telling signs, doctors need to work with the few it does have. If they believe a patient has pleural effusion, it is almost always immediately tested in order to find out if it has been caused by mesothelioma or simply an imbalance in fluids. Of course, combined with other symptoms that may be exhibited by mesothelioma, doctors can often guess whether or not it is cancerous cells that are causing the effusion or not. If you believe you are having the symptoms for this even greater symptom of mesothelioma, and you know you have been around asbestos in the past, it is important that you check with your doctor to make sure everything is alright.
About the Author
Nick Johnson is lead counsel with Johnson Law Group. Johnson represents plaintiffs in many states and focuses on injury cases involving Fen-Phen and PPH, Paxil, Mesothelioma and Nursing Home Abuse. Call Nick Johnson at 1-888-311-5522 or visit http://www.johnsonlawgroup.com
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