Pleural Plaques and Mesothelioma: Top Questions Answered

3 Min Read

A doctor holds up a picture of a lung x-ray

Pleural plaque is a harmless disease caused by asbestos exposure. Pleural plaques occur when collagen, a protein, builds up in the lung lining. However, those with pleural plaques should check with their doctor about the possible risk of mesothelioma, a deadly cancer also caused by asbestos.

What Are Pleural Plaques?

Pleural plaques are white, chalky, and calcified buildups of collagen in the lining of the lungs (pleura). Collagen is a protein that connects tissues in the body.

Anyone who has been exposed to asbestos may develop pleural plaques 20 to 30 years later. In some rare instances, pleural plaques may appear in as little as 10 years after exposure.

Pleural plaques are the most common asbestos-related disease.

Veterans are at risk of developing pleural plaques because all U.S. military branches used asbestos through the early 1980s to build bases, ships, planes, and vehicles.

Are Pleural Plaques Dangerous?

Pleural plaques are not usually dangerous. In fact, most patients who have pleural plaques do not have any symptoms.

That said, pleural plaques show that a patient has been exposed to asbestos at some point in their life. Anyone exposed to asbestos is at risk of developing mesothelioma, a deadly and incurable cancer, and other dangerous diseases.

The British Lung Foundation (BLF) says that patients with pleural plaques who experience symptoms should talk with a doctor. Those symptoms may be related to mesothelioma or another asbestos-related disease.

Symptoms of mesothelioma may include:

  • Chest pain
  • Cough
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Rib, shoulder, & upper back pain
  • Bloody sputum
  • Vomiting or coughing up blood

Because veterans may have been exposed to asbestos while they served, they are at a higher risk of mesothelioma along with pleural plaques. 33% of all mesothelioma patients served in the U.S. military.

How Are Pleural Plaques Diagnosed?

Pleural plaques are diagnosed through: imaging scans of the chest, such as computed tomography (CT) scans and chest X-rays. High-resolution computed tomography (HRCT) scans are more accurate than X-rays when making a diagnosis.

Biopsies may be conducted after imaging scans to definitively prove that a patient has pleural plaques. A biopsy is done by extracting a tissue sample from the pleura and then examining it under a microscope to look for calcification.

These tests can also be used to diagnose mesothelioma. If a doctor finds potentially cancerous tumors in the pleura during imaging scans, they can recommend a biopsy. This not only proves if a patient has cancer and if so, what type of cancer they have.

How Are Pleural Plaques Treated?

Pleural plaques usually require no treatment since they have no symptoms and do not impact lung function.

However, as previously mentioned, patients with pleural plaques who develop possible symptoms of mesothelioma should see a doctor as soon as possible.

There are more treatments for mesothelioma if a patient is diagnosed early on. Mesothelioma often spreads throughout the body as it progresses, making treatment options limited.

Can You Get Compensation for Pleural Plaques?

It may be possible to get compensation for pleural plaques if you develop another asbestos-related disease as well.

Compensation is often available since manufacturers of asbestos-based products knew the health risks but said nothing. These companies sold their products to the U.S. military and the general public for decades, putting millions in danger to make money.

Through the legal system, those who got sick can get compensation to pay for medical treatments and hopefully live longer.

Did you know

Mesothelioma patients typically receive $1 Million in compensation.

That said, it can be hard to know how much money you can get if you have pleural plaques since they are not life-threatening and have no symptoms.

Thankfully, you can learn how much compensation is available by working with a mesothelioma lawyer. These lawyers specialize in getting compensation for those with asbestos-related diseases and may be able to help you as well.

The Mesothelioma Veterans Center works with lawyers who specifically help veterans with asbestos-related diseases. Speak with a lawyer right now.

Veterans Support Team
Christopher Dryfoos PhotoWritten by:

Contributing Author

Christopher Dryfoos is a journalist and member of the American Medical Writers Association (AMWA). As the grandson of the U.S. Navy’s first forensic pathologist, he aims to help veterans with mesothelioma access needed care.

  1. Kheir, F. (2019, January 17). Pleural plaques/Mesothelioma. Retrieved July 01, 2020, from
  2. Pleural plaques. (2018, August 29). Retrieved July 01, 2020, from
  3. Stark, P. (2019, August 05). Imaging of pleural plaques, thickening, and tumors. Retrieved July 09, 2020, from