Table of Contents
When you have symptoms of mesothelioma or have been diagnosed with mesothelioma, it is critical to understand where your mesothelioma is located and the type of mesothelioma for which you will be seeking treatment. As you may already know, mesothelioma, which is often known as malignant mesothelioma, is a form of cancer that develops in the mesothelium, which is a thin layer of tissue that covers a person’s organs. For most people, mesothelioma cannot be cured. Even when it is caught in relatively early stages, it is an aggressive type of cancer that is deadly. In general, there are four different kinds of mesothelioma, and the type of mesothelioma is based on where it is located, as well as the type of tumor cell. The types of mesothelioma include pleural mesothelioma, peritoneal mesothelioma, pericardial mesothelioma, and testicular mesothelioma. Pleural mesothelioma is the most common type of mesothelioma, and it occurs in the tissue surrounding a person’s lungs, as the Mayo Clinic explains. This type of mesothelioma is called pleural mesothelioma because it occurs more specifically in the pleura. What are the pleura? The following information can help you to learn more about the part of the body where malignant mesothelioma occurs most often and how this cancer can affect a person and cause specific signs and symptoms.
Defining the Pleura
According to the National Cancer Institute, the pleura is “a thin layer of tissue that covers the lungs and lines the interior wall of the chest cavity.” The pleura “protects and cushions the lungs,” and this type of tissue “secretes a small amount of fluid that acts as a lubricant, allowing the lungs to move smoothly in the chest cavity while breathing.” Pleura is pronounced like “PLOOR-uh,” with the emphasis on the first syllable of the word. The plural form of the word pleura is pleurae.
There are two different types of pleura where malignant mesothelioma can occur in a person’s chest. Those types of pleura include parietal pleura, which is a tissue that lines the inside of a person’s chest wall, and visceral pleura, which is a tissue that lines a person’s lungs. Pleura is made up of mesothelial cells, which are rectangular-shaped and come together to form a sheet-like layer. A person has one pleura for each lung, and that pleura is “a single membrane that folds back onto itself to form two layers,” according to Very Well Health. The space that exists between the membranes is known as the pleural cavity, and the pleural cavity is filled with the lubricating liquid that is known as pleural fluid.
What is Visceral Pleura?
The visceral pleura is the membrane responsible for covering the lungs, and it also exists in the areas that separate the lobes of the lungs, known as the hilum. The visceral pleura is thin and slippery, and it is difficult to remove without affecting a person’s lung. The normal visceral pleura is extremely thin and is only about 1 mm thick. It is fused to a person’s lung. Together with parietal pleura, visceral pleura helps to filter fluid from a person’s chest, as well as eliminate fluid. When the pleurae are not working properly or become diseased, other conditions of the pleura can occur, such as pleural effusion or pleurisy. Pleural effusion refers to a form of fluid accumulation, while pleurisy refers to an inflammation of the pleura.
What is Parietal Pleura?
The parietal pleura provides the lining to the inside of a person’s chest, as well as the pericardium and diaphragm, which is the muscle that separates a person’s chest and abdominal cavities. The parietal pleura joins together with the visceral pleura at the hilum. This area of the body is also the entry point for a person’s bronchus, blood vessels, and nerves, according to Very Well Health. The way in which the parietal pleura lines the inside of a person’s chest can be visualized in a way that is akin to wallpaper. It is very thin but is slightly thicker than the visceral pleura. Most parietal pleura has a thickness of about 2mm to 3mm. In general, you can imagine the thickness of the pleura as similar to the thickness of a balloon skin when it is blown up. When the visceral or parietal pleura becomes diseased, it will often be thicker.
Role of the Pleurae in the Human Body
The pleurae perform many important functions in the human body. In addition to filtering and eliminating fluid from the lungs, the pleura is important to the body’s respiration abilities since the pleura provide lubrication and cushion that allows a person to inhale and exhale. When the lungs expand and contract, there is a risk of friction, and the pleura helps to reduce that friction. To clarify why there is a need to reduce friction, picture the intrapleural space of the cavity, which is also known as the pleural cavity: there are only about four cubic centimeters or slightly more of pleural fluid that helps to reduce friction between the lungs and the internal chest area.
In addition to providing cushion and reducing friction, the pleural fluid also helps the lungs to expand outward when a person is inhaling because of its adhesiveness. The position of the pleural fluid also assists the lungs in maintaining their shape and position against a person’s chest wall, while also providing a division between other essential organs in the central area of the body. In other words, the pleura can help to prevent other organs from interfering with a person’s lungs, and a person’s lungs from interfering with the functions of other organs. Finally, the pleura helps to prevent infection from spreading to the lungs, as well as to other parts of the body when there is an infection in the lungs.
Medical Conditions Associated with the Pleura
Malignant mesothelioma affecting the pleura, or pleural mesothelioma, is the most serious medical condition affecting a person’s pleurae. Yet there are also other medical conditions that can result from disease or damage to the pleura.
Pleurisy is a medical condition that refers to inflamed pleural membranes. Pleurisy most frequently occurs because of a viral infection, but it can also have other causes. Sometimes bacterial infections can result in pleurisy, while autoimmune conditions can also cause pleurisy, including lupus and rheumatoid arthritis. When the pleurae become inflamed, they “become rough and sticky,” according to Very Well Health, and can become stuck together. When this happens, a person can experience sharp pain that feels like stabbing when they inhale, cough, sneeze, or take deep breaths. The pain can worsen when a person inhales especially cold air. Pleurisy can also cause a fever and loss of appetite.
Pleural effusion is another common disease or condition of the pleura, which involves excess fluid accumulating in the pleural space, causing breathing difficulty. Pleural effusion most commonly results from congestive heart failure, but other diseases or conditions can also result in pleural effusion, such as lung cancer or trauma to the lung. Symptoms include chest pain, a dry cough, difficulty with taking deep breaths, hiccups, and shortness of breath. In some cases, pleural effusion can be malignant, in which case it is known as malignant pleural effusion. What is malignant pleural effusion? This is a type of pleural effusion in which cancer cells are present, and it most often results from cancer that has metastasized from the lungs or breast.
Since pleural effusion and pleurisy can both cause symptoms similar to mesothelioma, it is critical to be assessed by a health care provider as soon as possible and to have any necessary tests completed to determine the cause of symptoms. Tests may include a chest X-ray or a CT scan in most cases.