Pleural mesothelioma is a type of asbestos-related cancer that affects the tissue lining the lung cavity (pleura). Pleural mesothelioma is often misdiagnosed as a type of lung cancer because of its close proximity to the lungs. Whereas lung cancer affects the lung tissue, pleural mesothelioma affects the pleura surrounding the lungs. The only known cause of pleural mesothelioma is exposure to a carcinogenic mineral called asbestos.
Pleural mesothelioma is the most common type of malignant mesothelioma, accounting for approximately 75 percent of all confirmed mesothelioma cases. It is one of three types of malignant mesothelioma, the other two of which are peritoneal mesothelioma, which affects the tissue lining the abdomen, and pericardial mesothelioma, which affects the tissue lining the heart.
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Pleural mesothelioma is a latent disease that can take anywhere from 30 to 50 years to fully mature and become symptomatic. The most common presenting symptom of pleural mesothelioma is chest pain. Typically, the chronic nature of chest pain associated with pleural mesothelioma forces sufferers to seek medical attention, at which point a pleural mesothelioma diagnosis can be made.
Pleural mesothelioma chest pain results from an accumulation of fluid between the lungs and the pleura. This fluid buildup is referred to as pleural effusion. It can be drained through an invasive procedure called a pleural tap (thoracentesis).
In addition to chest pain, there are a number of common symptoms associated with pleural mesothelioma, some of which include:
- Breathing difficulties (dyspnea)
- Persistent, dry coughing
- Weight loss
- Sleep irregularities
It is important to visit a doctor following development of any of the aforementioned symptoms. If a case of pleural mesothelioma is diagnosed early, a specialist will have more options in planning treatment.
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