Rare case of "buffalo chest" makes mesothelioma worseCertain things can worsen malignant pleural mesothelioma (MPM) by impairing respiratory health. Smoking is a good example. Though MPM is caused by asbestos exposure, tobacco use typically makes a patient's prognosis poorer. However, there are other, unintentional conditions that may also speed the growth of MPM.
One of these, as detailed by a case report in the journal General Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgery, is buffalo chest, a condition in which the two halves of the thorax - which are usually separated by the mediastinum - are connected, usually through a hole or tear.
Opening the door between the two pleural cavities
Mesothelioma and buffalo chest are each rather uncommon thoracic conditions, so having both is extraordinarily unlikely. Yet that is exactly what happened to one Japanese man. A 75-year-old former ironworker who may have been exposed to asbestos, the patient initially had his thymus gland removed for mysathenia gravis, an autoimmune neuromuscular disease.
Just 13 months later, he was readmitted to the hospital due to difficulty breathing. What his doctors found was that he had bilateral pneumothoraces - that is, air pockets around both lungs that made it harder to breathe.
But that wasn't all. Surgical examination revealed something much worse. The patient also had MPM, which appeared to have spread quite fast due to an odd thoracic condition...
Literally like a buffalo
In this case, the patient had likely developed buffalo chest after having his thymectomy. In this operation, doctors had opened his chest along the sternum and inserted chest tubes. Researchers theorized that this led to the opening up of the two halves of the chest into one large cavity.
Buffalo chest is quite serious. It gets its name from what you might expect: Buffaloes, unlike most other mammals, have one large thoracic cavity, rather than two smaller ones that each contain a lung. According to the New England Journal of Medicine, this made it easier for Native Americans to hunt bison, since one arrow or spear puncture threw off the animal's chest pressure, making it hard to breathe.
In the case of the Japanese patient, buffalo chest did more than affect the man's ability to breathe: The team suggested that this condition gave the man's latent mesothelioma an opening to spread farther and faster.
The patient succumbed to his condition just a month later.
Fortunately for people with mesothelioma, this occurrence is vanishingly rare. In the entire searchable medical literature, this is the sole case of MPM metastasis aided by buffalo chest.
Rare polyps may develop as a consequence of malignant mesothelioma, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3481150/, 11/6/12
Asbestos exposure led to death of Merchant Navy man, http://www.getbracknell.co.uk/news/s/2123312_former_merchant_navy_man_died_from_mesothelioma_after_inhaling_asbestos_fibres, 11/5/12
Siblings honor father-son mesothelioma victims, http://www.hartlepoolmail.co.uk/community/taking-to-skies-for-dad-and-brother-1-5064192, 10/31/12
Former students, colleagues rally around coach who has mesothelioma, http://hinsdale.suntimes.com/sports/15657700-419/badminton-legend-battling-cancer.html, 10/23/12
Bike ride raises money for mesothelioma research, http://www.livingstondaily.com/article/20121014/NEWS01/210140322/Resident-cycles-raise-funds-fight-rare-cancer?odyssey=tab%7Ctopnews%7Ctext%7CFrontpage, 10/16/12
Report describes latest cases of mesothelioma in Australia, http://www.mesothelioma-australia.com/media/10599/amr%20report%20final%2012%20september%202012.pdf, 9/27/12
Mesothelioma fundraiser celebrates third year, http://www.wowktv.com/story/19600262/putnam-woman-organizes-fundraiser-in-memory-of-father, 9/24/12
Charity 5k walk/run to raise money for mesothelioma research, http://www.theday.com/article/20120918/NWS01/120919658/1019&town=, 9/21/12
Family of five sisters to raise funds for mesothelioma charity, http://www.thisissomerset.co.uk/Sisters-plan-family-fun-day-memory-father/story-16840190-detail/story.html, 9/20/12