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Pleural mesothelioma is likely caused by inhaling asbestos particles. Over time, the mineral’s needle-like fibers lodge themselves in the lungs, reaching as far as the pleural lining. Tumors can develop to form a mass surrounding the affected lung. The tumor mass and buildup of pleural fluid stops the lungs from expanding to their full capacity, making breathing a struggle for those who have contracted the disease.
Mesothelioma is not curable at any stage. However, the prognoses in the early stages are generally more favorable than in the later stages. Likewise, patients who have been diagnosed with peritoneal mesothelioma typically survive for longer periods of time than those diagnosed with pleural mesothelioma.
Lung cancer caused by asbestos is different than pleural mesothelioma. Lung cancer caused by asbestos develops in the lung, while pleural mesothelioma develops in the pleura, the lining of the lung. Both diseases take decades to develop but only months to metastasize or spread. They are similar in the symptoms and diagnostic tests that accompany each but are different in their physical characteristics and treatment techniques.
The main difference between mesothelioma and other forms of lung cancer is that mesothelioma usually develops in the lining of the lungs, while lung cancer will develop in the lung itself. Mesothelioma is also caused by inhaling asbestos, a dangerous chemical found in construction materials. Lung cancer can be caused by a variety of factors, such as tobacco use, second-hand smoke and exposure to other harmful chemical substances.
Researchers suggest that roughly 70% to 80% of patients with mesothelioma have a significant history of asbestos exposure, making it the most common risk factor in the development of mesothelioma.
That said, asbestos exposure does not account for all affected individuals. A volcanic mineral known as erionite found in rock formations can also cause mesothelioma once it becomes disturbed and is airborne. It’s possible that one can be diagnosed without obvious exposure to asbestos or erionite. Cases such as these are known as idiopathic or spontaneous mesothelioma.
According to the EPA, there is no safe level of asbestos exposure. If you have been exposed to a significant amount of asbestos in your past, there is nothing you can do to reduce your chances of contracting mesothelioma. The key to avoiding the worse outcome for you now lies in early detection. It’s incredibly important to get screened as soon as possible if you have been exposed recently or in the past.