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What Are Pleural Plaques?
Pleural plaques are deposits of collagen fibers (scar tissue) that collect in the lining of the lungs. They specifically build up in the parietal pleura, which is the outer tissue lining of the pleural cavity. The parietal pleura is the lining along the chest wall and ribs.
Pleural plaques can be a standalone health condition separate from pleural mesothelioma. Pleural plaques are caused by asbestos. They usually take 10-30 years to form after asbestos pierces into the pleural tissue linings. When pleural plaques are not a sign of pleural mesothelioma, they are benign.
However, they can also be a symptom of pleural mesothelioma.
Pleural Plaques and Pleural Thickening
Pleural plaques can cause pleural thickening, which is another symptom of pleural mesothelioma. Pleural plaques are defined by small areas of scar tissue in the pleura, whereas pleural thickening is more widespread scar tissue throughout the pleural cavity.
Another main difference between the two is the symptoms and discomfort for people. Pleural plaques usually don’t present any symptoms or cause discomfort. Pleural thickening can affect the elasticity of the lungs and lead to breathing issues.
Pleural Plaques and Pleural Mesothelioma
There is a correlation between pleural plaques and pleural mesothelioma. A study of workers in France revealed a connection between pleural plaques and pleural mesothelioma. The study found that for asbestos-exposed workers with pleural plaques, there was an increased risk of later developing pleural mesothelioma.
However, it is not definitive that pleural plaques is a precursor to pleural mesothelioma. Some people with pleural plaques never develop pleural mesothelioma.
Pleural plaques are also linked to asbestos lung cancer. In a study of 1,482 lung cancer patients, 76 (5%) had pleural plaques. In a separate study, people with pleural plaques had a much higher risk of lung cancer than people who didn’t have this condition.
What Causes Pleural Plaques?
Pleural plaques are caused by exposure to asbestos. Sharp asbestos fibers can enter the lining of the lungs after being inhaled or swallowed. When the fibers enter the pleural lining, they can pierce into the tissue on either side. The visceral pleura is the inner lining (along the lungs) and the parietal pleura is the outer lining (along the chest wall).
If the fibers irritate the parietal pleura, they can cause immune cells to swarm to the pleural cavity. These cells can cause fibrosis, which is when connective tissue replaces normal tissue with collagen fibers. As the collagen fibers build, they result in scar tissue.
How to Diagnose Pleural Plaques
Doctors can diagnose pleural plaques by using imaging tests. The main two imaging tests to tell if someone has pleural plaques are below:
- X-rays – X-rays provide two-dimensional images of an area of the patient’s body. A chest X-ray can reveal pleural plaques.
- CT scans – Pleural plaques can be diagnosed with a CT scan. According to one source, CT scans are 95% accurate at identifying pleural plaques. CT scans are the preferred way to diagnose pleural plaques.
Frequently Asked Questions About Pleural Plaques
Can Pleural Plaques Cause Pleural Mesothelioma?
Pleural plaques cannot cause pleural mesothelioma, but they can be a sign of the cancer. Pleural plaques are benign scar tissue that consists of hyalinized collagen fibers. This scar tissue is noncancerous, but it can be caused by pleural mesothelioma tumors.
Are There Any Symptoms of Pleural Plaques?
Pleural plaques usually don’t cause any symptoms. They may impact respiratory (lung) function or lead to pleural thickening, which can result in difficulty breathing and chest pain. However, pleural plaques on their own usually don’t show symptoms.
How Are Pleural Plaques Treated?
Pleural plaques usually are not treated unless they are a symptom of a more serious condition. Pleural plaques on their own are benign (noncancerous). If pleural plaques are associated with pleural mesothelioma cancer, then doctors will treat the cancerous tumors.
Is Pleural Plaques the Same as Asbestosis?
Pleural plaques are not the same as asbestosis. Pleural plaques are a buildup of scar tissue in the pleural cavity. Asbestosis is defined as inflammation and scarring of lung tissue. They are separate asbestos conditions, and they are different in their severity. Pleural plaques are a benign condition and are not deadly on their own. Asbestosis is a potentially fatal health condition.
What Are the Causes of Pleural Plaques Other Than Asbestos?
Pleural plaques are caused exclusively by exposure to asbestos. There are no known causes of pleural plaques aside from asbestos fibers.
What Is the Average Payout for Pleural Plaques?
Pleural plaques are the most common asbestos-related health condition. The average payout for pleural plaques is unknown. Since pleural plaques on their own are a benign condition, they are not deadly. However, pleural plaques can be a symptom of pleural mesothelioma, for which the average payout is around $1 million. The average payout for pleural plaques depends on varying factors, including whether the patient has pleural mesothelioma, the amount of asbestos exposure, the pain and suffering for the victim, and more.
Sources & Author
- Chapter 2 – Pleural Plaques and Malignant Pleural Mesothelioma in a Patient With Previous Asbestos Exposure. ScienceDirect. Retrieved from: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/B9780323795418000023. Accessed: 02/27/2023.
- Pleural plaques/Mesothelioma. Cancer Therapy Advisor. Retrieved from: https://www.cancertherapyadvisor.com/home/decision-support-in-medicine/hospital-medicine/pleural-plaques-mesothelioma/. Accessed: 02/27/2023.
- Pleural plaque. Radiopaedia. Retrieved from: https://radiopaedia.org/articles/pleural-plaque. Accessed: 02/27/2023.
- Pleural plaques and the risk of pleural mesothelioma. Journal of the National Cancer Institute. Retrieved from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23355760/. Accessed: 02/28/2023.
- Incidental and Underreported Pleural Plaques at Chest CT: Do Not Miss Them—Asbestos Exposure Still Exists. BioMed Research International. Retrieved from: https://www.hindawi.com/journals/bmri/2017/6797826/. Accessed: 02/28/2023.
- Pleural plaques in lung cancer screening by low-dose computed tomography: prevalence, association with lung cancer and mortality. BMC Pulmonary Medicine. Retrieved from: https://bmcpulmmed.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12890-017-0506-3. Accessed: 02/28/2023.