Malignant Pleural Mesothelioma
Pleural Mesothelioma is a serious ailment that affects the thoracic cavity. It is believed to be caused by inhaling asbestos dust. Most of the three thousand such cases reported in the United States every year are malignant. There are two important reasons for this. The disease has a long latency period of twenty to forty years. By the time the symptoms manifest, the cancer would have already set in. Secondly, the outward signs that emerge are similar to that of many common and less serious diseases, rendering diagnosis difficult. Usually the problem is identified too late.
The outward symptoms of pleural mesothelioma include breathing and swallowing difficulty, loss of weight, constant coughing, chest congestion and pain, spitting blood, and fever. Detailed investigations reveal irregular thickening of pleura and fluid collection, reduced space between the lung lobes, and mineral deposits.
Malignant pleural mesothelioma goes through four separate stages. Initially it is restricted to the pleura, the membrane in the thoracic cavity. Next the lymph nodes are affected. In the third stage there would be local spreading of the disease. Finally the cancer penetrates to other parts of the body. Often, death strikes within six to eighteen months of diagnosing the disease depending on the stage at which the problem was identified.
In the initial phase surgery may prove helpful to some extent. Other lines of treatment include Brachotherapy. Several doctors prefer a multi-modality approach aimed at prolonging survival and reducing pain. Exciting new developments like photodynamic therapy, immuno therapy and gene therapy are undergoing human clinical trials.
The sad part is that we are yet to see the full spectrum of the menace. The present strike rate of 3000 new pleural mesothelioma cases per year is only a starter. National Cancer Institute estimates that eight million people have been exposed to asbestos during the past fifty years and that 300,000 new cases of pleural mesothelioma could come up by 2030! It is essential that efforts be made on a war footing to develop new effective methods of prevention and treatment.
But pragmatically, for the present, a person diagnosed with malignant pleural mesothelioma and/or his close relatives should look for the best palliative care and a competent lawyer to sue for damages.