An aggressive cancer, mesothelioma most often attacks the protective membrane lining of the lungs (pleural mesothelioma) and sometimes the tissue of the abdomen (peritoneal mesothelioma). Exposure to asbestos remains the leading cause of this rare but deadly condition. A mineral once widely used in insulating materials, asbestos products for use in construction have been banned in the United States since the 1970s. Older buildings and plumbing systems, though, still continue to contain asbestos around the country and world. Men over 60, who may have had prolonged contact with asbestos in the workplace during their lifetime, are most at risk for developing the condition. Secondary exposure of asbestos has been known to cause the disease in women and children.
Specializing in lung disorders, NorthShore’s board-certified thoracic surgeons work closely with the multidisciplinary team at the Kellogg Cancer Center to evaluate and treat patients with pleural mesothelioma.
Symptoms and Diagnosis of Mesothelioma
The diagnosis of pleural mesothelioma can be challenging. Many of the symptoms share similarities with other pulmonary and health conditions. They may include:
- shortness of breath
- persistent coughing
- chest pain near the rib cage
- unexplained weight loss
Your physician may recommend a variety of diagnostics tests, such as:
Pleural biopsies provide a definitive diagnosis of pleural mesothelioma. In some cases, your physician may require a small sample of lung or pleural tissue in order to confirm an initial diagnosis or before starting treatments. At NorthShore, our experienced thoracic surgeons perform minimally invasive diagnostic procedures for this condition. We routinely use video assisted thoracoscopic surgery (VATS), involving pencil-thin surgical instruments and a tiny camera, to take a biopsy for testing.
Surgical Treatment Options for Mesothelioma
Early diagnosis and treatment to remove the mesothelioma from the lining of the lungs offers the best chance of a cure. Unfortunately, most cases of this uncommon cancer are diagnosed at advanced stages. While no cure exists at the moment for the majority of mesothelioma patients, surgery alone or in combination with chemotherapy and radiation can help to alleviate complications of the disease.
At NorthShore, we offer several palliative treatments, including:
- Pleurodesis: A minimally-invasive thoracoscopic procedure involving the insertion of a chemical (most commonly talc) into the chest in order to promote inflammation. This causes the lung to adhere to the lining of the chest wall and prevents build up of excess fluid. In some cases, the lung will not adhere well, and in those cases, a catheter can be placed to drain excess fluid (pleural effusion) as it accumulates.
- Pleurectomy/Decortication: An open surgical treatment to remove the tissue lining of the lungs and any tumor masses.
For More Information
To schedule an appointment with one of our thoracic surgeons, please call 847.570.2868.