Pleural Mesothelioma

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Pleural mesothelioma is a rare and aggressive form of cancer that affects the lining of the lungs, known as the pleura. It is primarily caused by exposure to asbestos, a mineral commonly used in construction materials and other industries. This article aims to provide valuable insights into the symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment options for pleural mesothelioma.

Chest Pain: A Common Symptom

One of the most common symptoms of pleural mesothelioma is chest pain. This pain can be sharp or dull and may worsen with deep breathing or coughing. It is important to note that chest pain can also be a symptom of other conditions, so it is crucial to consult a healthcare professional for an accurate diagnosis.

Shortness of Breath: A Distressing Symptom

Shortness of breath is another prominent symptom of pleural mesothelioma. As the cancer progresses, tumors can grow and spread, causing the pleura to thicken and restrict lung function. This can lead to difficulty breathing, even during minimal physical exertion.

Coughing: A Persistent Symptom

Coughing is a common symptom experienced by individuals with pleural mesothelioma. It may be accompanied by blood in the sputum, which can be alarming. Persistent coughing should never be ignored and should be evaluated by a medical professional.

Fatigue: A Debilitating Symptom

Fatigue is a common symptom experienced by individuals with pleural mesothelioma. The cancer and its treatments can cause extreme tiredness and weakness, making it difficult to carry out daily activities. It is important for patients to prioritize rest and seek support from loved ones during this challenging time.

Weight Loss: An Unintended Symptom

Unintended weight loss is a common symptom of various cancers, including pleural mesothelioma. As the disease progresses, the body’s metabolism may be affected, leading to a loss of appetite and subsequent weight loss. It is crucial for patients to maintain a healthy diet and consult with a healthcare professional for guidance.

Difficulty Swallowing: A Troubling Symptom

Difficulty swallowing, also known as dysphagia, can occur in individuals with pleural mesothelioma. Tumors can press against the esophagus, making it challenging to swallow food and liquids. This symptom can significantly impact a patient’s quality of life and should be addressed by a healthcare professional.

Fever and Night Sweats: Potential Symptoms

While less common, some individuals with pleural mesothelioma may experience fever and night sweats. These symptoms can be indicative of an infection or inflammation caused by the cancer. It is important to consult a healthcare professional to determine the underlying cause and appropriate treatment.

Muscle Weakness: A Debilitating Symptom

Muscle weakness can occur in individuals with advanced pleural mesothelioma. The cancer can spread to other parts of the body, affecting muscle function and causing weakness. Physical therapy and exercise under the guidance of healthcare professionals can help manage this symptom and improve overall strength and mobility.

Hoarseness: A Vocal Symptom

Hoarseness or changes in voice can occur in individuals with pleural mesothelioma. Tumors can press against the nerves that control the vocal cords, leading to changes in voice quality. It is important to consult with a healthcare professional if hoarseness persists or worsens.

Diagnosis and Treatment Options

Diagnosing pleural mesothelioma typically involves a combination of imaging tests, such as X-rays and CT scans, as well as a biopsy to confirm the presence of cancer cells. Once diagnosed, treatment options may include surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and targeted therapy. The choice of treatment depends on various factors, including the stage of the cancer and the overall health of the patient.


Surgery aims to remove the cancerous tumors and surrounding affected tissue. It may involve removing part or all of the affected lung, as well as the pleura. Surgery can be curative in some cases, especially if the cancer is detected at an early stage.


Chemotherapy uses powerful drugs to kill cancer cells or slow down their growth. It is often used in combination with surgery or radiation therapy to increase the chances of successful treatment. Chemotherapy can help shrink tumors, alleviate symptoms, and improve overall survival rates.

Radiation Therapy

Radiation therapy involves the use of high-energy beams to target and destroy cancer cells. It can be used before surgery to shrink tumors, after surgery to kill remaining cancer cells, or as a palliative treatment to relieve symptoms and improve quality of life.

Targeted Therapy

Targeted therapy is a newer approach that focuses on specific genetic mutations or proteins present in cancer cells. It aims to disrupt the growth and spread of cancer cells while minimizing damage to healthy cells. Targeted therapy may be used in combination with other treatments or as a standalone option.

Can Pleural Mesothelioma Be Cured?

While there is currently no known cure for pleural mesothelioma, advancements in treatment options have significantly improved outcomes for patients. Early detection, combined with a multimodal treatment approach, can increase the chances of long-term survival and improved quality of life. It is essential for individuals at risk of asbestos exposure, such as construction workers and veterans, to undergo regular medical check-ups and screenings to detect the disease at its earliest stages.


Pleural mesothelioma is a challenging and aggressive form of cancer that primarily affects the lining of the lungs. Recognizing the symptoms and seeking prompt medical attention is crucial for early detection and effective treatment. While a cure may not currently be available, advancements in treatment options offer hope for improved outcomes and quality of life for individuals diagnosed with pleural mesothelioma.

Haroon Rashid, MD
Rate author
Urgent Care Center of Arlington, VA
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