What is Pleural Mesothelioma?
Cancer is of many types, and Mesothelioma is one of them. The Mesothelium is the thin lining of tissue that covers the internal organs. Cancer that develops from this thin layer is called Mesothelioma. Because of its critically harmful effects, it is also known as Malignant Mesothelioma.
The Mesothelium produces various lubricating fluids which have a myriad of purposes and functions in the human body. Among others, the lubricants that the Mesothelium secrets help protect the body against infection. The condition where the Mesothelium cells are abnormal and divide in an uncontrollable and unorderly fashion is called Mesothelioma.
The impact is catastrophic as it can affect and damage the nearby organs and their tissues. It is well known that the impact of cancer cells is not contained only in the adjacent areas. The cancer cells can metastasize, which in non-scientific terms means to spread. This means the cancer cells can spread to various parts of the body from the originally affected area. The area which is affected most commonly is the layer of the lungs and chest wall.
The disease can also occur in the Mesothelium of the stomach and the sac that surrounds the heart and the lining of the testis, but this is comparatively less common.
The most common form of the disease is Pleural Mesothelioma. More than half of the accounted cases are that of Pleural Mesothelioma. The lining which covers the lungs is called Pleura, and the cancer that occurs in it is called Pleural Mesothelioma. It is caused by exposure to asbestos. When asbestos fibers are inhaled, they get lodged in the Pleura. Asbestos exposure can occur at work or at home.
Asbestos exposure doesn’t lead to only Mesothelioma but can also lead to asbestosis and lung cancer. Asbestos exposure can happen to carpenters, plumbers, electricians, factory workers, and many other occupations. It can also happen to members of the military who fight wars in indigenous locations. Smokers are also at high risk of contracting this disease because cigarette smoke makes it difficult for the lungs to remove the fibers of asbestos that are lodged. At home, people are at risk of asbestos exposure when remodeling the house and renovation occurs.
The asbestos fibers remain in the air for quite a long even after the work is finished, and once inhaled, they can stay in the respiratory tract for a long time, sometimes even for a lifelong period. Asbestos has been reported to be found in makeup products as well. The same report also mentioned that coloring crayons also contain traces of asbestos. It takes anywhere from 2 decades or 5 decades for signs of Mesothelioma to the surface. A formidable example of where exposure can occur is the 9/11 World Trade Center incident in New York. Most of the rescue workers who helped for days at the end of the site developed respiratory problems and abnormal lung issues.
Pleural Mesothelioma Symptoms
Common signs or symptoms of this disease are
Pain in the chest wall
Shortness of breath and fatigue
Hoarseness and coughing
Swelling in face and arms
Trouble in swallowing food
There are no popular screening tests recommended for people who are not directly in contact with asbestos and therefore not at an increased risk of contracting the disease. But for people who have sure exposure to asbestos, specific imaging tests are recommended. For example, CT (Computed Tomography) test searches for lung changes that might show positive signs of the disease. Specific facts like high levels of substances like osteopontin and SMRPs (soluble mesothelin-related peptides) also indicate that Mesothelioma exists.
There are no early detection methods for Mesothelioma, and most people suffering from this disease are identified after the symptoms occur, which may take decades to appear. Pleural Mesothelioma can also cause fluids to fill the area around the lungs. This is known as Pleural Effusion. This can be detected during the physical examination. Constant coughing and shortness of breath call for attention and demand immediate reporting to the doctor to carry out tests.
Below are the tests that assist in the detection of Mesothelioma
Chest X-Ray- This is usually the first test that must be carried out to scan for the disease. Results like abnormally thickened Pleura, calcium deposits in Pleura, fluid in the space between lungs and chest wall. Other changes in the lungs also call for attention.
CT (Computed Tomography) Scan- CT scans are used to determine the exact location of cancer in the body and can also be used to find out whether cancer has spread to other organs or not.
Echocardiogram- This test is carried out if a Pleural Effusion is suspected. It can also be used to ascertain the proper functioning of the heart.
PET (Positron Emission Tomography) scan- For the PET scan, some glucose is injected into the blood, and because cancer cells can metastasize, they absorb more glucose than other cells. Thus they can be detected in this way.
MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) scan- MRI scans also show detailed images similar to CT scans. MRI scans can determine the exact location of cancer and the size of the tumor.
Blood tests- As mentioned earlier, a high level of certain substances like Osteoporin and SMRP indicate a positive test for Mesothelioma.
It is often not easy to diagnose Mesothelioma simply by looking at fluid samples and Biopsy tissues. Mesothelioma often appears the same as other cancers, and it is hard to isolate this disease. Pleural Mesothelioma may appear very similar to lung cancer. Other special laboratory tests are done to help diagnose Mesothelioma.
There are some pulmonary function tests or PFTs which can be done once Pleural Mesothelioma has been diagnosed.
Pleural Mesothelioma Treatments
A combination can treat Mesothelioma of methods like:
- Radiation therapy
These treatments might expel this disease entirely or partially. Lifestyle changes like cutting out alcohol and smoking are suitable for patients after the treatment. Given that, cancer always has chances of recurrence, so frequent checks must be done even after the treatment.