Malignant Pleural Mesothelioma Symptoms and Treatment

Malignant Pleural MesotheliomaWhen most people hear the word mesothelioma, they immediately think of asbestos lung disease. There are actually several types of mesothelioma asbestos cancer. Malignant pleural mesothelioma is a cancer that affects the membrane surrounding the lungs. About 75 percent of the patients have this type. Malignant peritoneal mesothelioma affects the membrane surrounding the organs in the abdomen. About 10 to 20 percent of patients have this type. The remaining people have rare forms of mesothelioma that affect the lining of the heart or testicles. In addition to affecting different parts of the body, mesothelioma can be caused by four different types of cells that turn cancerous. 50 to 70 percent of these cancers are epithelioid mesothelioma because they resemble epithelial cells when seen through a microscope.

Malignant pleural mesothelioma doesn’t usually cause symptoms until the cancer is more advanced. When symptoms are present, the patient may complain of shortness of breath or chest pain, usually at the side of the chest or the lower back. They may experience problems like coughing, hoarseness or trouble swallowing. Weight loss, sweating, tiredness and fever are also symptoms of malignant pleural mesothelioma. Some patients will experience muscle weakness and swelling of the arms and face.

Surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy are used alone or in combination to treat malignant pleural mesothelioma. There is no cure at this time. The goal of treatment is to slow the spread of the cancer and improve quality of life for as long as possible. Because of the way mesothelioma grows it is difficult to remove it surgically. Until recently, the life expectancy for malignant mesothelioma was 4 to 18 months after diagnosis. Relatively new medications like Alimta and Cispltain are able to kill some cancer cells and slow the growth of those that remain.