Pleural mesothelioma is a cancer of the pleura, which is the thin lining of the lungs and chest cavity. It is an aggressive and typically fatal form of cancer, and is caused by exposure to asbestos fibers. Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral that was widely used in the manufacture of construction materials, insulation, and other products until it was finally banned in the 1970s.
Pleural mesothelioma is characterized by a thickening of the pleura, which can cause difficulty breathing and chest pain. Symptoms may include shortness of breath, chest pain, weight loss, coughing, and fatigue. Diagnosis is typically made through imaging studies such as chest X-rays and CT scans, as well as biopsies of pleural tissue.
The pathology of pleural mesothelioma is complex and involves many different components. The most common type of mesothelioma is epithelioid mesothelioma, which is marked by cells that appear cuboidal or columnar in shape. These cells are usually arranged in sheets or nests and are often surrounded by an inflammatory response. Other types of mesothelioma include sarcomatoid mesothelioma, which is marked by spindle shaped cells that form a diffuse pattern, and biphasic mesothelioma, which is composed of both epithelioid and sarcomatoid cells.
Mesothelioma is classified into four stages, ranging from I to IV, with stage IV being the most advanced. The staging process is based on the size and extent of the tumor, the involvement of lymph nodes, and the presence of metastases. Treatment of pleural mesothelioma typically includes surgery to remove the tumor, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and/or targeted therapy.
Understanding pleural mesothelioma requires an understanding of the pathology and staging process and the various treatments available. Although it is a highly aggressive and typically fatal form of cancer, advances in treatment have improved outcomes for some patients. It is important for those who have been exposed to asbestos to be aware of the risks of mesothelioma and to seek medical attention if they experience any of the symptoms.