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What is Pleural Cancer?

Article Details
  • Written By: Malcolm Tatum
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 22 August 2018
  • Copyright Protected:
    2003-2018
    Conjecture Corporation
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Sometimes referred to as pleural mesothelioma, pleural cancer is a condition in which cancer cells develop in the pleura. The pleura is the sac that encloses the lungs along with the mesothelium, the thin membrane that is vital to the proper expansion and contraction of the lungs during the process of breathing. This form of lung cancer is one of the most prevalent forms of mesothelioma.

Exposure to asbestos is the single most common trigger for the development of pleural cancer. Constant exposure to an environment where asbestos is present makes it possible for the individual to breathe in loose asbestos fibers that can lodge in the lining of the lungs and begin to cause inflammation. As the inflammation increases, the potential for tumors to develop increases significantly.

Several common signs indicate the presence of pleural cancer. One of the most common has to do with the gradual development of breathing problems. The individual may begin to experience shortness of breath from time to time, followed by periods of wheezing and coughing. As the condition progresses, the voice may become hoarse for no apparent reason. It is not unusual for chest pain to develop as the pleural tumor begins to increase in size.

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Along with the chest pain, blood clots may form as the condition worsens. At the same time, the growing tumor or tumors will increase the pressure in the chest, eventually causing so much pain that the individual may assume he or she is having a heart attack. During this stage, the lungs may also begin to fill with fluid, creating even more pressure and making breathing an almost unbearable task.

Treatment for pleural cancer includes maintaining a healthy weight and consuming foods that supply the body with essential nutrients. A biopsy and other tests should be employed to determine if the tumors are actually malignant. If so, then the use of radiation treatments and chemotherapy is often the first line of defense. Depending on the severity of the situation, both these therapies may be used concurrently, thus increasing the patient’s potential for at least receiving some relief from the pain as the treatments continue.

The prognosis for recovery from pleural cancer is generally not good. Because the condition is often advanced by the time it is detected, the main focus is on improving the quality of life for whatever time the patient has left. Surgery is an option, but often is not practical when the pleural disease is advanced. Generally, people diagnosed with this form of cancer can look forward to six months to a year before dying, although a few patients may live for a few months more.

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