The pleura is the thin, protective layer of mesothelial tissue covering the lungs and lining the interior wall of the chest cavity. This tissue secretes a small amount of fluid that acts as a lubricant, allowing the lungs to move smoothly in the chest cavity while breathing.
Pleural mesothelioma represents more than 75 percent of all mesothelioma cases, and, like all mesotheliomas, is caused by exposure to asbestos. When asbestos fibers are inhaled, they travel to the lungs and become imbedded in the pleura and elsewhere. Though the precise mechanism that triggers the growth of mesothelioma tumors is not known, studies suggest that the asbestos fibers cause inflammation that ultimately causes tumors to develop.
Initial symptoms of pleural mesothelioma may be very general and resemble those associated with such illnesses as the common cold or flu.
Initial symptoms of pleural mesothelioma may be very general and resemble those associated with such illnesses as the common cold or flu. For this reason, they are easily ignored. In addition, mesothelioma has a lengthy latency period and often does not appear for 20 years or more, reducing the likelihood that an individual who is experiencing symptoms will link them to asbestos exposure in the past. Most patients with mesothelioma experience symptoms for only two to three months before the cancer is diagnosed. Only about one-fourth of mesothelioma patients notice symptoms for six months or more before their cancer is found.
Symptoms of pleural mesothelioma include the following:
- Fluid in chest
- Chest Pain
- Shortness of breath
- Coughing up blood
- Unexplained weight loss
- Pain at rib cage, in the lower back, or at the side of the chest
- Pain or swelling in the abdomen
- Difficulty swallowing
- Fever or night sweats
- Swelling of the face and arms
- Lumps under the skin
- Generalized fatigue
Symptoms will vary from patient to patient depending on a variety of factors; some patients experience no symptoms at all. In the early stages of pleural mesothelioma, symptoms are subtle. An otherwise asymptomatic patient may experience a pleural effusion, a small buildup of fluid between the outside lining of the lung and the chest cavity. Early on in the disease process, the most frequent symptoms are cough and shortness of breath. As the disease progresses, some patients also develop severe breathing difficulties, fever and a rasping voice, and begin to cough up blood.
If you have any history of asbestos exposure and are experiencing any of the above symptoms, it is very important that you consult a doctor immediately for an evaluation.