Pleural Mesothelioma

Of the four types of mesothelioma that exist, the pleural type is the most common. 75% of patients who have been diagnosed with mesothelioma are pleural, which means that the malignant tumors are in the chest—specifically affecting the pleura.

The pleura is a thin layer of tissue, formed by mesolethial cells, that covers the outside of the lungs (visceral pleura) and the inside of your chest cavity (parietal pleura). Between the pleura layers is a space that is filled with a small amount of lubricating fluid that allows your lungs to easily move without friction, as they do when they expand and inflate while you breathe.

How asbestos causes pleural mesothelioma

The primary cause of pleural mesothelioma is asbestos, and how it enters the body is usually through breathing. That’s how asbestos ends up in our lungs, where it inflames and irritates. Long term irritation and inflammation can gradually lead to the development of scarring and calcification or thickening of the pleural lining, known as pleural plaques, which is considered a precursor to malignant tumors.

It can take a couple of decades before you notice any symptoms of the disease. In fact, it can take anywhere from 20 to 50 years for people to experience any troubling symptoms, which is why malignant pleural mesothelioma tends to be diagnosed at a later stage, when the cancer has spread far from the point of origin. This makes it difficult to determine an effective treatment for the patient and decreases survival rates. Generally, life expectancy is about one year following diagnosis, however treatments can help improve your doctor’s prognosis.

Who is at a higher risk?

Older men tend to be at a higher risk of being diagnosed with pleural mesothelioma. This is because historically, more men worked in industries that involved asbestos (before its manufacture was restricted), such as asbestos mining, insulation installers, roofers and shipyard workers. As a result, men make up 80% of those who have been diagnosed with pleural mesothelioma and occupational exposure is a key risk.

How do you diagnose pleural mesothelioma?

Along with an in-depth physical exam and look at your medical history, you may also be diagnosed by using imaging scans that can show the exact location of existing tumors, pleural effusion (excess fluid in the pleura) or thickening of the lining. A biopsy is also performed.


If you have pleural mesothelioma, you may experience any of these symptoms:

  • shortness of breath and other breathing difficulties
  • chest pain
  • weight loss
  • nausea and vomiting
  • fever
  • fatigue
  • anemia


Conventional treatments for pleural mesothelioma are surgery(pneumonectomy, extra pleural pneumonectomy and pleurectomy/decortication), chemotherapy and radiation therapy. Other treatments that can increase survival rates and ease symptoms include clinical trials and complementary and alternative therapies (CAM).

Research has found that survival rates are highest for pleural mesothelioma patients who undergo either extrapleural pneumonectomy or pleurectomy/decortication surgery, complemented by chemotherapy or radiotherapy1.

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