The following sections addresses the most commonly asked questions about pleural mesothelioma.
In This Section
- Is pleural mesothelioma curable?
- How is pleural mesothelioma diagnosed?
- Where does pleural mesothelioma start?
- What are the different types of pleural mesothelioma? IE: Biphasic
- What are the symptoms of pleural mesothelioma?
- Where does pleural mesothelioma spread to?
- How do you cure pleural mesothelioma naturally?
- Which of the pleural mesothelioma stages are most people diagnosed at initially?
#1 Is pleural mesothelioma curable?
Pleural mesothelioma is incurable at all states. The aggressive cancer usually is detected at stage 3 or 4 because symptoms do not appear until the later stages. The typical prognosis for a pleural mesothelioma patient is less than a year.
However, the prognosis for stage 1 and stage 2 mesothelioma is better. Also, patients with peritoneal mesothelioma tend to live longer than pleural mesothelioma patients.
There are reported cases of long-term remission or no evidence of cancer in some patients who undergo surgery, chemotherapy, and immunotherapy.
While there is some hope with mesothelioma and progress is being made, there are several roadblocks to curing it. First, there is less awareness and research dollars available for this type of cancer because it is so rare. (asbestos.com)
Also, most doctors do not have the chance to treat many mesothelioma patients in the early stages. The nature of mesothelioma is that symptoms may not be noticeable until much later. The symptoms they do experience, such as shortness of breath and pain in the chest, can be mistaken for pneumonia and other less serious illnesses.
The best outcome with mesothelioma is always to find it early. If you have any history of asbestos exposure, tell your doctor so he knows to give you regular health screenings.
#2 How is pleural mesothelioma diagnosed?
If you have symptoms of mesothelioma and a history of asbestos exposure, your physician will perform a physical examination to check for any unusual lumps or signs of pain. Next, your doctor may order a chest X-ray, a CT scan, or PET scan. (Mayoclinc.org)
After imaging tests, if the doctor has suspicions about anything he sees on the results, he may order a biopsy. A biopsy removes a small part of the suspicious tissue to be examined in a laboratory. Depending on the area of the body, the doctor will choose one of these biopsy types:
- Insert a needle through the skin: Your physician may take out the fluid of a small piece of tissue with a thin need inserted into your chest or abdomen.
- Collect a tissue sample during surgery: The doctor may make a small cut and insert a tube with a video camera to view inside your abdomen or chest. Special tools are used to collect a sample of suspicious tissues.
The biopsy sample is studied under a microscope to see if the tissue is mesothelioma and the types of cells involved. The type of mesothelioma and tissue type influence how you will receive treatment.
Once the mesothelioma diagnosis is confirmed, your doctor may recommend more tests to understand if cancer has spread. These tests can include CT scans of the chest and abdomen; MRI, or PET scans.
#3 Where does pleural mesothelioma start?
Pleural mesothelioma is asbestos-caused cancer that starts in the tissues surrounding the lungs. About 75% of diagnosed malignant mesothelioma cases form in the pleura, which makes it the most common type of mesothelioma.
The inhalation of asbestos particles irritates the lung lining. The particles eventually migrate into the pleural lining. Over the years, these tiny, sharp fibers can lead to irritation, chronic inflammation, and genetic changes that can turn into cancer.
The pleural lining is comprised of two layers. The outer layer lines the whole inside of the chest cavity, which is inside the ribs. The inner layer coats the lungs. (asbsestos.com)
A tumor can develop on either the outer or inner layer and spread fast to the other layer. As tumors grow on the surface of the pleura, they can grow into a mass that surrounds the lung. The tumors also can cause pleural fluid to develop inside the chest, making it difficult to breathe.
Once the tumors have started to grow and around the lung and fluid develops, the lung becomes compressed and the patient will notice regular shortness of breath. At this point, the patient may see his doctor, but the cancer is already in an advanced stage, so treatment options are limited.
#4 What are the different types of pleural mesothelioma? IE: Biphasic
Pleural mesothelioma is the most common form of the disease, but there are three different types of cells that can be involved that affect the prognosis. They are: (asbestos.com)
Doctors can tell which cell type your mesothelioma is by examining a biopsy under a microscope.
Epithelial cell mesothelioma comprises 75% of mesothelioma cancers. This cell type has the best prognosis of the three. It is not as aggressive and does not spread as quickly as sarcomatoid and biphasic cell types. About 50% of pleural mesothelioma is epithelioid.
Sarcomatoid mesothelioma is the least common cell type and the deadliest. It is the most difficult to treat and comprises 10-20% of all mesotheliomas. Approximately 20% of pleural tumors have sarcomatoid cells.
Biphasic cell mesothelioma has both epithelial and sarcomatoid cells. Life expectancy with this cell type depends on which cell is more common in the tumor. More epithelioid cells mean a better prognosis. But if the tumor mostly has sarcomatoid cells, it is harder to treat.
#5 What are the symptoms of pleural mesothelioma?
One of the challenges of diagnosing mesothelioma is that many of the early symptoms mimic less serious diseases. The common signs of chest pain, fatigue and weight loss often do not come until the tumors began to press against organs, bones, and nerves. This is what happens in stages 3 and 4 of the disease when treatment options are few.
Many people ignore the early signs and think they have a cold or some other respiratory illness. Even doctors have been known to misdiagnose mesothelioma because it is so rare. This is why you should disclose any possible asbestos exposure you have had in your life to your healthcare provider. (Cancer.org)
Common symptoms of pleural mesothelioma are:
- Pain in the chest or lower back
- Regular shortness of breath
- Fever or night sweats
- Muscle weakness
- Difficulty swallowing (feels like food is getting stuck)
- Swelling in the arms and face
#6 Where does pleural mesothelioma spread to?
Once pleural mesothelioma is beyond stage 1, it can begin to spread. This is called metastasis. Cancer cells first may spread to the lymph nodes, which can carry cancer cells throughout the body. (Cancer.ca)
If your pleural mesothelioma spreads these are the most common places it could migrate:
- The space between the lungs and chest
- Ribs and muscles in the chest
- The other lung
- Diagram (the thing muscle below the heart and lungs
In a clinical study that looked at 165 pleural mesothelioma patients, researchers found that 60% experienced spreading, such as pleural effusions and metastasis to the other lung. About 30% also had the cancer spread to the lining of the heart.
#7 How do you cure pleural mesothelioma naturally?
Mesothelioma cannot be cured, but it can be put into partial or complete remission in some patients.
There are alternative treatments that some patients try instead of on in combination with regular mesothelioma therapies. Most of the intent of these therapies are to reduce pain and improve quality of life. Some of the alternative therapies fall under the umbrella of holistic medicine. The idea of holistic medicine is to treat the entire person rather than just the illness and symptoms.
In the case of mesothelioma, the cancer is not treated. Instead, the immune system and body are boosted to allow the defense mechanisms of the body to heal the mesothelioma. This approach is intended to balance the body, mind, and spirit while boosting the immune system as the entire body begins to function smoother.
Some of the common alternative therapies include:
- Hypnosis for pain management: This is used often by patients who want to reduce the number of pain pills they take into their bodies.
- Supplements and lifestyle changes: A regimen of vitamins, herbs, and amino acids that boost the immune system to fight cancer
- Cannabis and cannabinoids: Used to ease cancer pain and nausea
- Acupuncture: Applying thin needles to parts of the body to manage pain and nausea
- Homeopathy: The use of small amounts of herbs to treat diseases such as mesothelioma
#8 Which of the pleural mesothelioma stages are most people diagnosed at initially?
There are four stages of pleural mesothelioma:
- Stage 1: Tumor is only in the mesothelial lining of the lung and has not spread.
- Stage 2: Mesothelioma cancer cells have gotten into the nearby lymph nodes.
- Stage 3: Tumor progression is clear in nearby organs and distant lymph nodes.
- Stage 4: Cancer cells have metastasized throughout the chest and beyond.
Unfortunately, most mesothelioma patients are diagnosed in stages 3 or 4. Patients seldom experience any significant symptoms in the early stages. It is until stage 3 or stage 4 that the tumors begin to press on other parts of the body where pain and discomfort begin. The later stages also is when fluid builds in the chest, making it difficult to breathe.
If you have any history of asbestos exposure, you should talk to your doctor about it so that he can regularly screen you for signs of mesothelioma.
These are some of the most common questions about mesothelioma. If you have more questions, please talk to a physician who is experienced in treating mesothelioma.