Diagnosis of Malignant Pleural Mesothelioma May Save Your Life

by Ben on January 6, 2010

About two-thirds of the people with the rare cancer mesothelioma have malignant pleural mesothelioma. This is not that strange, as the cancer is caused by asbestos exposure and inhaling the microscopic particles of that product is natural, since everybody has to breathe. These particles travel trough the lungs and settle deep inside, not causing problems until decades afterwards. It is known for mesothelioma to surface some 30 to 40 years after exposure to asbestos.

‘Pleural’ indicates the lining of the lungs and the chest cavity. Mesothelioma is a cancer developed in any lining of organs, abdomen or lungs and cavity. Since it is acknowledged that exposure to asbestos is the cause of this cancer, many countries have rules on how to handle this product. You may find asbestos in houses, buildings, shipyards, piping of ships, and in the heat and construction industry. As long as the product in housing for example is left alone, no harm is done. As soon as someone – a contractor or a DIY’er – is sawing or hammering into it, asbestos becomes dangerous, since particles will float through the air. Nowadays there are many companies specialized in taking apart houses and buildings where asbestos is used. Wearing protective coveralls and masks they look like moonwalkers while doing their job.

Malignant pleural mesothelioma is hard to diagnose, as the first symptoms – breathlessness and chest pain – may indicate totally different, less dangerous, conditions as well. But if you know you have been exposed to asbestos once upon a time in your life, you should tell your doctor right away. Even if you are indirectly connected to asbestos, like having a partner who worked in construction way back when. He may have brought the particles home without even knowing it. By informing your doctor straight on you save yourself months of time and examination. As with any cancer time is extremely essential.

Other symptoms of this cancer are too much fluid in the lining between your chest and your lungs. You need a measured amount of fluid to make chest and lungs interact, but too much is an indication something is severely wrong. An X-ray can show this. Weight loss that is not to be reversed and nightly sweats without a reason are other indications you should go visit a doctor.

Apart from X-rays a CT or MRI scan may be necessary to determine if indeed your pleural is harmed by scars, masses or too much fluid. If that is the case, the next step will be to remove a bit of fluid from your pleural. This is a minor procedure which only acquires local anesthesia. A biopsy, the removal of some suspected tissue, is another option to complete the diagnosis.

Mesothelioma is a verdict that might cause tremendous desperation. The chance of living longer than a year after the diagnosis has been completed was very long very poor. With the modern treatments and early discovery – as far as 30-40 years after exposure is ‘early’ – it is in three-quarters of the cases of malignant pleural mesothelioma possible to extend the life span to five years. It is therefore very important to go to a doctor as soon as you have symptoms that are different from a severe cold or a mild influenza. And to tell him or her your possible history with asbestos. Better ten times too many than one time too short. After all it is your life you are looking after!

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