Pleural mesothelioma is an aggressive and terminal form of cancer linked primarily with exposure to an asbestos-a toxic carcinogen that was found in a myriad of consumer products, mostly manufactured prior to 1980. Throughout history, mesothelioma has been an exceedingly rare condition. But as a result of the extensive use of asbestos throughout the past century, around 3000 cases are now reported in the U.S. each year.
The following FAQ answers are intended to offer a brief overview of some of the most pertinent topics related to the most common form of mesothelioma cancer:
Question: Where may I have been exposed to asbestos, and how do I know if I am at risk for developing mesothelioma?
Answer: Asbestos was a particularly prevalent occupational hazard during the early part of the 20thcentury. It was used most heavily by the construction industry, as a multitude of building materials-from cement mix, and flooring tiles to insulation and exterior siding-were commonly made from asbestos fibers, because of their outstanding strength and natural heat-resistant properties. The automotive industries also made heavy use of asbestos-containing materials, as did every branch of the U.S. Military.
Although those who worked in any of the aforementioned industries between the 1920s and late 1970s are considered to be in the high-risk category, virtually anyone had the potential to have experienced some degree of asbestos exposure-at home, at school, and even by coming into contact with someone carrying tiny and innocuous-looking fibers on their hair, skin or clothing. Other everyday products that often contained asbestos during the bulk of the 20th century ranged widely from face powder and hair dryers to children’s toys and crayons.
Question: How is pleural mesothelioma contracted?
Answer: Mesothelioma is caused by long-term damage to the pleura, an organ that serves as a protective barrier for the lungs and chest wall. This damage occurs over a considerable period of time-usually several decades after the inhalation of tiny fibers that have been released by damaged or deteriorating asbestos. Once embedded in the delicate mesothelial tissue, they cause irritation and eventual scarring that can result in tumor formation and the production of malignant cells.
Question: What are the early warning signs of mesothelioma affecting the pleura?
Answer: Early symptoms of pleural mesothelioma can be confounding, to both victims and medical professionals. Because mesothelioma symptoms are so similar in presentation to those of much more common and far less serious conditions, they are often disregarded or misdiagnosed. Signs indicative of advanced-stage mesothelioma eventually become severe enough to cause alarm-but by this point, it is too late with treatment efforts restricted to palliative care only.
Possible mesothelioma indicators to be on the lookout for include:
- A persistent dry cough or wheezing
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pain or pressure
- A constant hoarseness of the voice
- Chronic fatigue
- Unexplained weight loss