Pleural Mesothelioma Information:

What is the pleura?

The pleura is a membrane lining the lungs and chest cavity. Like a deflated balloon, this membrane is one continuous piece that folds over on itself. The mesothelial cells of the pleura produce fluid to lubricate the movement of the pleural lining against itself. The purpose of this is to allow smooth, unhindered movement of the lungs as they expand and contract, moving against the chest wall land other organs.

The "outer" pleura, where it touches the chest cavity, it is called the parietal pleura. The mesothelial pleural lining that is against the organs is called the visceral pleura.

How does asbestos cause pleural mesothelioma?

How the chemical or physiological changes that asbestos fibers cause lead to pleural mesothelioma is still somewhat of a mystery. However, how the small, lightweight, and very fine fibers of asbestos enter the body is not: when airborne, asbestos is easily inhaled. Asbestos fibers can break down so small, that a substantial amount in the air may not be visible to the naked eye.

Once these microscopic asbestos fibers make it into the lungs, their strength--the asset exploited by business--becomes a terrible liability. The body's natural defenses are not able to break down or eliminate the asbestos fibers, which can slice through delicate tissues of the lung and make their way to the pleura surrounding the lung. The lymph system may also move fibers through the body; asbestos has been found in nearly every organ of the body, even the brain.

Pleural Mesothelioma Symptoms

The symptoms of pleural mesothelioma are not necessarily unique to the disease, so if you know you have a history of asbestos exposure, you should let your physician know. Proactive monitoring and more aggressive diagnostic testing may help you get an earlier diagnosis, which can make a big difference when it comes to treatment options.

Pleural mesothelioma symptoms include shortness of breath, chest pain, unexplained weight loss, pleural effusions (an excess build up of pleural fluid between the parietal and visceral pleura), and night sweats. Clearly, these symptoms could indicate any number of other non-serious and serious conditions. If you are concerned your symptoms are caused by pleural mesothelioma, you should share your concerns with your doctor as soon as possible. Even if you have no symptoms, it is a good idea to alert your doctor of your asbestos exposure history.

Pleural Mesothelioma Diagnosis

If your symptoms or exposure history pushes you toward your doctor, a physical exam and patient history will most likely be the first step in diagnosing pleural mesothelioma. The next step is likely to be an x-ray, which can show pleural effusions, masses, or scarring.

If something suspicious shows up on x-ray, a more detailed imaging technique will be used to more accurately assess the issue; CT scan, CAT scan, or MRI will provide a clearer picture of the location and size of the tumor or effusion. No definitive pleural mesothelioma diagnosis can be determined, however, from imaging.

To get a definitive diagnosis, a biopsy or thoracentesis will be performed. Both of these procedures are minimally invasive and involve using a hollow needle to collect tissue or fluid samples for testing by a pathologist. The cells of these samples will be stained using chemicals to identify abnormal cells; this chemical staining is called immunohistochemisty, or "immunos."

If a definitive pleural mesothelioma diagnosis is still not made, further testing may be needed. Surgical biopsy, the use of a lighted scope, or other more invasive tests for pleural mesothelioma may be required.

More Pleural Mesothelioma Information

For more information on pleural mesothelioma, including treatment information, visit the Mesothelioma Center web site. A pleural mesothelioma diagnosis is serious, but there is hope; if you are diagnosed, find a pleural mesothelioma specialists to help coordinate your care. You may also find support groups are a useful resource. Finally, legal help is available, but you are limited in the amount of time you have after diagnosis in which you can pursue a claim; even if you are not totally sure what next step you would like to take legally, speaking with an asbestos attorney as soon as possible can allow you to be in charge of the decision, as opposed to the clock.


Abestos: did you mean asbestos? Common mispellings of asbestos include aspestis, aspestos, & asbestoes.

Visit the Mesothelioma Center site for more information on mesothelioma.

This site is dedicated to providing the most up to date information and support for those who suffer from the lung cancer mesothelioma, also known as asbestos cancer, or who know someone who does. We diligently seek new information and we are available to help you find answers for your individual situation.

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