The word “pleura” is about as foreign and strange as the word “mesothelioma.” It almost sounds like something out of a science fiction movie. According to 100 Questions & Answers About Mesothelioma, the pleura is a sheet-like lining that forms around the chest wall and lungs like wallpaper.

All of us have had some type of respiratory infection. Those who have had a bout with pleurisy as the result of pneumonia know how painful the inflammation of the pleura can be. But few of us understand exactly what the pleura is and its function in the body.

As Dr. Pass tells us, there are two pleurae in the chest. The parietal pleura is only 2 to 3 mm thick, which is approximately the same density of three sheets of copy paper. The visceral pleura is approximately one sheet of copy paper. Can you imagine these two thin membranes lining and protecting our lungs from injury and disease?

The parietal pleura lines and is attached to the chest wall. It is extremely sensitive to pain. The visceral pleura cover the lung, blood vessels, bronchi and nerves. Between both is what is known as the pleural space where pleural fluid lubricates the surfaces of both linings, allowing the two layers to slide against each other while breathing. Pleural fluid also keeps the lung surface fitted to the chest wall, providing inflation of alveoli during respiration, coordinating the movement of the chest wall closely with that of the lungs.

Even though Dr. Pass states that the pleura is expendable – that one’s body can function without it should it become diseased – one should be attentive of one’s body and recognize symptoms such as a nagging cough, pleurisy, pneumonia or bronchitis. If you were exposed to asbestos, you may have an asbestos-related cancer like mesothelioma.

If you have a history of exposure to asbestos ,please take the time to make your primary care physician aware of the same.