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Oncology (Williston Park). 1999 Jul;13(7):919-26; discussion 926, 931-2.

Malignant mesothelioma of the pleural space.

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Division of Thoracic Surgery, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts, USA.


Malignant pleural mesothelioma is an aggressive tumor associated with exposure to asbestos. Although this disease is rare, with an annual incidence in the United States of 2,000 to 3,000 cases, a steady rise in cases has been reported. Malignant pleural mesothelioma has a variable clinical presentation and may be difficult to diagnose. Pathologically, the disease is subdivided into three microscopic subtypes: epithelial, sarcomatous, and mixed histologies. Although there is no widely accepted staging system for mesothelioma, the Butchart, TNM, and Brigham staging systems have been used most commonly. Diffuse malignant pleural mesothelioma is resistant to standard modes of therapy and, if untreated, results in death 4 to 12 months from the time of diagnosis. For selected patients, an aggressive approach combining radical surgery with chemotherapy and radiotherapy has demonstrated a long-term survival advantage. New and innovative therapeutic modalities are presently being investigated in an attempt to provide viable alternatives for patients with early and advanced disease.

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