Malignant Pleural Mesothelioma

Malignant Pleural Mesothelioma

Malignant Pleural Mesothelioma – Trimodality Therapy Survival Rate

Malignant pleural mesothelioma is a malignancy located in the membrane that covers the lungs. Pleural mesothelioma is the most common form of mesothelioma; about 80-90% of the cases begin in the pleural.

In general, the symptoms of malignant pleural mesothelioma which may send a patient to the doctor are:

  • A persistent cough
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Pain, particularly in the chest, abdomen or lower back, which doesn’t respond to over-the-counter pain medication
  • Loss of appetite and weight loss

Often, when the patient is examined, fluid accumulation is found in the chest cavity; it can usually be seen on a chest x-ray or heard during the physical examination.

How easy it is to treat pleural mesothelioma depends on the staging of the tumor. The earlier it is diagnosed, the more likely it is that surgical treatment will lengthen life expectancy, survival rate. A combination of surgery, chemotherapy and radiation, known as trimodality therapy has shown a survival rate of 45% at 2 years and 22% at 5 years.

Pleural mesothelioma is sometimes diagnosed by accident, before there are any symptoms, often when a routine x-ray is done. As the tumor spreads over the pleura, the pleura thickens and becomes less flexible and more restrictive. The lungs become less functional and breathing is increasingly difficult.

When the tumor spreads beyond the pleura, it invades surrounding tissue. This can compress the lungs further and cause more pain (for example, as it invades the chest wall or ribs.)

Malignant pleural mesothelioma may resemble other lung-related cancers; historically, it has required further examination of the tissue sample by staining and viewing with an electron microscrope. Recently, however, a blood test has been developed that can point to mesothelioma pretty reliably.³ This greatly simplifies the diagnostic process, and because the test can help diagnose mesothelioma long before typical symptoms show up, treatment can begin much earlier, when the prognosis is much better.

Mesothelioma Cancer aggressive and invasive form of cancer, and it quickly spreads over the surface of the lungs.

“Mesothelioma: Questions and Answers” Web site of the National Cancer Institute,

“Malignant Pleural Mesothelioma: Characterization of MPM with Histochemistry, Immunochemistry, and Electron Microscopy” From the archives of Radiological Society of North America,

³“Asbestos Cancer Breakthrough Reported”, Nov. 13, 2003. First-ever Blood Test for Mesothelioma Being Developed,

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