One of the most dreadful yet relatively preventable type of cancer is lung cancer. Most cases of lung cancer occur due to habits like smoking cigarettes or using smokeless tobacco. One of the complications that can occur as a result of lung cancer is malignant pleural effusion. Although this complication is generally associated with lung cancer, it can also occur in relation to other cancers, like breast cancer, ovarian cancer, or cancer of the gastrointestinal tract.
Pleural Effusion Causes
The words 'pleural effusion' means the collection of fluid in the space that is present between the lining of the lungs (which are known as 'pleura'). This fluid can be clear, or it could contain blood as well. When this fluid contains cancer cells, then it is known as malignant pleural effusion. Its exact cause is not know, although it does occur as a result of complication due to cancer. In fact, malignant pleural effusion, as a complication of cancer, can develop even years after the initial diagnosis of the cancer is made.
Pleural Effusion Treatment
There are certain symptoms that can help identify this condition at the earliest. Almost half of the affected people that develop malignant, or any kind of pleural effusion experience breathing problems like dyspnea and heaviness in the chest. Once the condition is diagnosed, the underlying cancer that is leading to this complication needs to be addressed. Usually, systemic chemotherapy is the path taken to treat such cases. If this fails, then the pleural effusion is drained using chest tubes or with the help of thoracoscope.
Malignant Pleural Effusion Survival Rate
A rough estimate of the prognosis can be calculated with the help of biochemical analysis of the fluid in the lungs. Also, other factors that affect the estimate of the prognosis include a detailed study of the histology of cancer cells found, the stage of the tumor, organ affected, amount, and characteristics of the fluid, extensiveness of involvement, etc. All of these factors notwithstanding, unfortunately, it shows a poor prognosis. The main reason why this is such a difficult condition to treat is because this is the stage which signifies a far advanced stage of the cancer. The main aim of the treatment at this stage is to treat the symptomatic factors of the effusion and more importantly, treat the underlying cancer.
Basically, the main goal here is to go into damage control mode - by improving the quality of life of the affected person and alleviating the symptoms shown by the cancer. The cancer itself cannot be controlled once it has reached or surpassed this stage and so the treatment meted out is simply palliative. Also, even if the fluid has been removed, due to the high recurrence rate of the cancer, the prognosis is quite bleak.
The average malignant pleural effusion life expectancy is a little less than six months, with the median survival time being as less as four months. The prognosis of cases where the effusion is due to carcinoma of the lung or due to cancer of the gastrointestinal tract or ovarian cancer is the poorest.
Thus, on a concluding note, it can be said that the prognosis of this medical condition does not have very encouraging figures to show. However, a person should not take this negatively, as many measures exist to make the living conditions of the affected people much better. Furthermore, multiple efforts at alleviating the symptoms also help to better the prognosis as much as possible. Although not all cases of this medical condition occur due to lung cancer, quite a few of them are associated with either gynecological or respiratory system cancers. To prevent this condition, one must regularly go in for checkups like a mammogram. Also, if a person has been diagnosed with cancer, regular checkups to keep a tab on the progress of the cancer would help to catch any complication like malignant pleural effusion in the early stages itself.
Disclaimer: This HealthHearty article is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.