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Malignant Pleural Mesothelioma

What is Cancer?

Normally cells grow, divide, produce new cell that keep us healthy, and then they die in a predictable way.  Cancer occurs when the cells grow out of control and do not die, these cells form a mass of tissue that is called a tumor. They can invade and damage nearby tissues and organs. Cancer cells can also spread from their original site to other parts of the body.

What is the Pleural?Lung Pleaural

The lungs are in a cavity that is protected by the ribs.  The glue, so to speak, that keeps the lungs inflated is called the “pleura.” The pleura are two thin linings or membranes that protect and cushion the lungs.

One lining covers the lungs. It is called the visceral pleura—the other lining covers the chest wall. It is called the parietal pleura.  

Between these two linings there is a small amount of fluid (pleural fluid) that lubricates the surface of the linings, so the two surfaces glide smoothly over each other. 

It might be helpful to think of the linings as two pieces of glass placed on top of each other, one representing the lung pleura and the other piece being the chest wall pleura. If you set these pieces of glass one on top of the other they can easily be separated. But if you lightly coat the inside glass with water (pleural fluid) the pieces slide easily over each other and are very difficult to separate. 

When there is extra fluid in the pleural space, as in MPM, breathing becomes difficult, as the excess fluid does not allow the lungs to fill with the needed oxygen.


Other Diseases Affecting the Pleura

Pleurisy: pain described as dull, achy, sharp, ‘a catch’, and/or burning

Pleural Effusion: fluid in the pleural space

Pleural Plaque & Thickening: usually, fibrous tissue

Pleurodesis: irritant is infused into pleural space to keep lung inflated

Pneumothorax: air or gas in the pleural space

Lung Cancer and Mesothelioma: generally related to asbestosis exposure

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