Mesothelioma Mesothelial Cells Pleural Effusion

Pleural effusion is a buildup of fluid in the pleural space, between the lungs and the chest wall. Excessive buildup of this naturally-occurring pleural fluid can lead to a variety of respiratory symptoms. Pleural effusion is a complication that can arise from mesothelioma, as well as from other diseases or medical conditions.

Mesothelioma and Pleural Effusion

Mesothelioma is a cancer caused by exposure to asbestos, a natural material used in construction and manufacturing. Mesothelioma affects the mesothelium, which is the thin layer of tissue covering the internal organs (visceral mesothelium) and the body cavities that contain the organs (parietal mesothelium).

Both the lungs and the inside of the chest cavity are lined with mesothelial tissue. The mesothelium produces a fluid that lubricates the internal organs and facilitates movement. Usually, small amounts of this fluid are produced, and excess is re-absorbed into the body. However, in cases of mesothelioma, cancerous growth in the mesothelium can cause too much fluid to be produced. Pleural effusion is the buildup of this fluid in the pleural space, between the lungs and the chest cavity.

Pleural Mesothelioma and Pleural Effusion

Pleural Effusion Symptoms

If you develop pleural effusion, you may not notice any initial physical signs. However, as the condition worsens, you may begin to experience symptoms. There may be pressure on the lungs from increased fluid in the pleural space. This pressure usually causes chest pain, difficulty breathing and sometimes a painful cough. If you experience these symptoms (particularly if you have a disease such a mesothelioma), you should see your doctor for a pleural effusion diagnosis.

Pleural Effusion Diagnosis

In order to confirm a pleural effusion diagnosis, your doctor will review your medical history and ask you to describe your symptoms. Knowledge of underlying medical conditions that present risk for pleural effusion can help your doctor to make a diagnosis. Imaging tests (including CT scans and X-rays) may help to confirm the diagnosis. Your doctor may also perform a thoracentesis, in which a sample of the fluid in the pleural space is removed for analysis.

Pleural Effusion Treatment

Several treatment options are available for pleural effusion. Excess pleural fluid may be drained from the pleural cavity, especially if the fluid is putting pressure on the lungs and causing difficulty breathing. Recurrent pleural effusion may be treated with a sclerosing agent, which builds up tissue in the pleural space to reduce area in which the pleural fluid can accumulate. Treatment for pleural effusion depends on the underlying cause, and whether the condition is recurrent, or occurs only once.

Resources

American Cancer Society Staff. (n.d.). What is malignant mesothelioma? Retrieved December 29, 2009, from the American Cancer Society Web site: http://www.cancer.org/docroot/CRI/content/CRI_2_4_1X_What_is_malignant_mesothelioma_29.asp.

Cleveland Clinic Staff. (n.d.). Pleural effusion — Heart and vascular institute overview. Retrieved December 29, 2009, from the Cleveland Clinic Web site: http://my.clevelandclinic.org/disorders/pleural_effusion/ts_overview.aspx.

MedlinePlus Staff. (n.d.). Pleural effusion. Retrieved December 29, 2009, from the Medline Plus Web site: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/000086.htm.

Mesothelioma Web Staff. (n.d.). Mesothelioma symptoms. Retrieved December 29, 2009, from the Mesothelioma Web Web site: http://www.mesotheliomaweb.org/symptoms.htm.