Pleura (mesothelioma)

Pleura in the lung shown on a body diagram

Not technically a type of lung cancer, mesothelioma develops in the pleura, which is the membrane that covers the surface of the lungs. It has two layers, the inner layer next to the lung and the outer layer which lines the chest wall.

Facts and figures about pleura cancer

Pleura is the 17th most common cancer in the UK, although it accounts for more than 1% of the total male cancers. There is a much higher incidence in men, with a male to female ratio of 55:1.

Associated with exposure to asbestos, therefore increased incidence in industries such as shipbuilding and construction. Age related with 92% of cases arising in patients 60+ years. Poor prognosis, aim of treatment is usually to help with symptoms and control the disease.

Pleura cancer symptoms

  • Shortness of breath.
  • Chest pain (pain tends to feel heavy, dull or aching).
  • Heavy sweating (often at night).
  • Fever.
  • Loss of appetite.
  • Weight loss.

Diagnosis of pleura cancer

Investigations may include:

  • Chest x-ray.
  • CT scan.
  • Drainage of fluid and biopsies.

Pleura cancer treatment

Depends on several factors:

  • The stage of the cancer.
  • General health.

Surgery

Surgery is only suitable in a small number of cases.

Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy may be used to slow the growth and improve symptoms.

Radiotherapy

There is no proven role for radical radiotherapy. Prophylactive radiotherapy may be prescribed to the drain sites following thoroscopy. Palliative radiotherapy may be used to relieve pain or reduce chest wall masses.

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