If you’ve been diagnosed with pleural mesothelioma, you want to know where you can find the best treatment options and ways to improve life expectancy. Our Pleural Mesothelioma Guide is a complete and trusted resource providing valuable information, answers, and more — for free.
Pleural mesothelioma is caused by inhaling asbestos fibers that get lodged into the protective lining of the lungs (the pleura) which cause genetic mutations in the surrounding cells. Pleural mesothelioma makes up approximately 75 percent of all mesothelioma cases, meaning specialists have more opportunities to develop new treatments each year. As a result, pleural mesothelioma patients commonly have the most available treatment options.
An accurate diagnosis is important because pleural mesothelioma can vary by stage and cell type, both of which affect treatment options.
Most pleural mesothelioma patients are prescribed chemotherapy and/or radiation to help slow down the spread of aggressive mesothelioma cells. But surgical options such as a pleurectomy often offer the best chance for a longer survival time.
Depending mostly on factors like the stage the disease was diagnosed and the patient’s overall health, the prognosis for pleural mesothelioma is typically just over a year. However, patients using novel treatments have lived for years with the disease.
Because its symptoms are nonspecific, meaning the symptoms also appear in many other conditions, pleural mesothelioma can be difficult to diagnose.
Pleural mesothelioma has similar symptoms as more common respiratory conditions such as pneumonia or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Even under a microscope, doctors can have a hard time distinguishing between pleural mesothelioma and other cancers. That’s why tests are run to confirm the location, cancer stage, and cell type of the mesothelioma.
Doctors rely on your diagnosis to determine the type of treatment you receive, which is why they often won’t perform a surgical operation on a later stage patient. It’s always a good idea to get a second opinion from another mesothelioma specialist in order to confirm a diagnosis and expand your treatment options.
A biopsy is one of the more accurate ways to diagnose mesothelioma. The procedure involves taking a small fluid or tissue sample that provides important information like the cell type of the mesothelioma. Using that information, doctors then create the most effective treatment plan for your diagnosis.
Primarily affecting the respiratory system, pleural mesothelioma symptoms impact the airways, lungs, and breathing muscles. Caused by excess fluids (pleural effusion) in the lining of the lungs, some of the first signs a patient may feel are a persistent cough and shortness of breath.
Other symptoms felt by patients with pleural mesothelioma include:
Standard treatment options for pleural mesothelioma include surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy. Multimodal therapy, a combination of two or more of these treatments, has been shown to significantly improve the life expectancy of pleural mesothelioma patients.
The extrapleural pneumonectomy (EPP) is one of the most effective surgeries available to patients with pleural mesothelioma because it removes:
The EPP is believed to be the best chance of removing mesothelioma from the body. But because it’s a major invasive procedure, you must be in good overall health and be able to recover from it before your doctor will recommend it. Despite the risk, researchers in several studies have shown the EPP provides significant reward. One study published in the Journal of Thoracic Oncology reported the median survival rate for patients who received the EPP was more than double the average mesothelioma survival rate.
The pleurectomy/decortication (P/D) is a less invasive, lung-sparing alternative to the EPP that consists of two surgical techniques:
The P/D has produced survival rates equal to and sometimes better than those of the EPP.
Pleurodesis is a palliative surgery which eases the pain and pressure caused by a pleural effusion, a fluid buildup in the chest. Pleural effusions build up between the inner and outer pleural linings and inhibit lung and chest expansion. This procedure involves inserting a hollow tube into the chest wall, draining the excess fluid through the tube, and relieving pressure in the lungs and chest. It’s been proven effective in helping patients breathe easier and reducing overall chest pain.
A chemotherapy drug may be used by itself or combined with other chemotherapy drugs to enhance their effects. The first notably successful combination of chemotherapy drugs for mesothelioma, Alimta and Cisplatin, increased the survival time of patients by an average of 3 months. Chemotherapy is also combined with surgery, either before (neoadjuvant), during (intraoperative) or after (adjuvant), to improve survival rates. Using a combination of surgery and heated chemotherapy has been proven to help patients survive for 35 months.
Radiation is used as a palliative treatment, or in combination with chemotherapy and surgery, to shrink pleural mesothelioma tumors. This combination produced an average life expectancy of 33 months — almost 3 times the average of most patients with pleural mesothelioma.
Determining the stage of the mesothelioma, which describes how far it’s spread from where it first appeared in the lining of the lung, helps doctors decide which treatment options are available to you. Those with stage 1 or stage 2 pleural mesothelioma will have more available treatment options.
Pleural mesothelioma patients tend to have more available treatment options than patients diagnosed with peritoneal or pericardial mesothelioma. Because it’s the most common form of the disease, more doctors have seen and treated it compared to other forms of mesothelioma.
Your prognosis depends on a number of factors including:
The two biggest factors in your prognosis are the cell type and cancer stage of the mesothelioma.
If your diagnosis reveals the epithelioid cell type, you’ll likely have a better prognosis as they typically don’t spread as quickly as other cell types and often respond better to treatment. Also, stage 1 or stage 2 pleural mesothelioma patients have more treatment options available because early-stage pleural mesothelioma hasn’t spread far from the lining of the lung and is easier for doctors to surgically remove.