Pleural Mesothelioma

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Pleural mesothelioma is a cancer of the lining of the lungs, known as the pleura. It is caused by inhaling asbestos fibers. Malignant pleural mesothelioma accounts for 80 – 90% of all mesothelioma diagnoses. Symptoms of pleural mesothelioma include shortness of breath, dry cough and chest pain.


What Is Pleural Mesothelioma?

Pleural mesothelioma is a type of cancer caused by asbestos fibers becoming embedded in the lining of the lungs. Over time, the fibers may cause inflammation and scarring. As the scarring worsens, it may develop into mesothelioma tumors.

  • Pleural malignant mesothelioma is the most common form of mesothelioma cancer.
  • Each year, about 2,500 people are diagnosed with the disease.
  • Symptoms of the cancer commonly include shortness of breath, chest pain, dry cough and fatigue.
  • Diagnosis typically consists of multiple tests, including scans and biopsies.
  • Pleural mesothelioma is often treated with chemotherapy, surgery, radiation therapy and immunotherapy.
  • A patient’s prognosis will vary depending on their individual case, with an average life expectancy of six to twelve months.

What Is the Prognosis for Pleural Mesothelioma?

As with all types of malignant mesothelioma, prognosis for pleural malignant mesothelioma is poor. For patients who do not receive treatment, the median survival time is six months. However, certain types of treatment can improve life expectancy, such as surgery combined with chemotherapy.

Pleural Mesothelioma Survival Rates
1 year after diagnosis 73%
3 years after diagnosis 23%
5 years after diagnosis 12%
10 years after diagnosis 4.7%

The most important factors affecting the prognosis of pleural malignant mesothelioma patients are:

Most pleural mesothelioma patients are diagnosed with the epithelioid cell type, which is the most common. Epithelioid cells typically form in solid sheets or cord arrangements, meaning they adhere closely together and don’t metastasize as quickly. They are also the most responsive to treatment. Typically, pleural mesothelioma patients with the epithelioid cell type survive 19 months.Epithelioid Pleural Mesothelioma

The other cell types, sarcomatoid and biphasic, are less common and indicate a worse prognosis than epithelioid. Sarcomatoid mesothelioma doesn’t respond well to treatment and metastasizes aggressively, leaving patients with an average prognosis of 8 – 10 months.

Patients with biphasic pleural mesothelioma experience an intermediate life expectancy, depending on whether epithelioid or sarcomatoid cells are more dominant.

According to recent data, within the last decade, malignant pleural mesothelioma patients have been surviving longer overall as available treatments and diagnostic methods improve. Some patients are now becoming long-term survivors. Heather Von St. James was diagnosed with pleural mesothelioma in 2005 with an initial prognosis of 15 months. Following her treatment, she is now a survivor of more than a decade.


What Are the Symptoms of Pleural Mesothelioma?

After asbestos exposure, it can take 10 to 50 years for pleural mesothelioma symptoms to present. Symptoms typically first present in the chest cavity and respiratory system.

Pleural Mesothelioma Symptoms
  • Chest pain
  • Coughing up blood
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Dry cough
  • Fatigue
  • Fever
  • Fluid in the lungs
    (pleural effusion)
  • Night sweats
  • Shortness of breath
  • Weight loss

As the disease becomes more advanced, new and worsening symptoms may arise. For instance, stage 4 pleural mesothelioma symptoms may include coughing up blood and difficulty swallowing.

Pleural malignant mesothelioma patients may be diagnosed with a co-occurring asbestos-related condition, which can impact symptom onset. These include:

These conditions may also develop independently of pleural mesothelioma.


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