Mesothelioma Cancer Overview
Malignant mesothelioma is an uncommon cancer caused by exposure to asbestos. This deadly disease develops in the linings of the lungs, abdomen, and heart, and the prognosis is poor.
Although there is no known cure for mesothelioma, therapies and techniques for treating the disease have improved over the last several decades, and survivors are living longer than ever.
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Mesothelioma Survival Rate and Life Expectancy
The most common questions after receiving a mesothelioma diagnosis are related to prognosis:
- Will I survive?
- How long will I live?
- What will my quality of life be like?
Every case is different, and the specific answers to these questions will depend on an individual’s diagnosis, stage of the disease, and overall health. However, there are some statistics that can provide some insight into life expectancy and the likelihood of survival for those who have mesothelioma.
|Mesothelioma Life Expectancy||Mesothelioma Survival Rate|
|Stage 1 – 21 months||6 months – 55%|
|Stage 2 – 19 months||1 year – 33%|
|Stage 3 – 16 months||5 years – 9%|
|Stage 4 – 12 months||—|
Many different factors go into these statistics. To understand how the disease is most likely to progress in their specific case, mesothelioma patients should speak with their doctor.
Cause of Mesothelioma
Mesothelioma is caused by asbestos exposure. According to the most reliable studies, 95% of people with mesothelioma have a known exposure to asbestos, or asbestos fibers were found in their tumors. Many mesothelioma patients have worked closely with asbestos or with products that still contain asbestos, but secondhand exposure is a concern for anyone.
Asbestos is still not completely banned in the United States, despite the fact that it is a known carcinogen. It can still be found in construction materials, vehicle parts, and a variety of consumer products. Most buildings created through the 1980s still have asbestos in them, making it a danger in many homes, apartments, schools, offices, and public buildings.
Mesothelioma Diagnosis and Types
Mesothelioma can take a long time to develop, anywhere from 20 to 50 years. Anyone who exhibits mesothelioma symptoms should contact a doctor right away, as early diagnosis is the best way to improve life expectancy.
Diagnosing the disease can be tricky, since its symptoms can mimic those of other diseases, especially in the early mesothelioma stages. It is frequently misdiagnosed, which can delay treatment.
There are three types of tests that individuals may undergo as part of diagnosis.
|Imaging Tests||Blood Tests||Biopsies|
|Imaging tests are the least invasive, so doctors will use these tests first to try and find signs of cancer:||If imaging tests show potential signs of cancer, a doctor will draw blood to look for one of the following biomarkers indicating mesothelioma may be present:||A biopsy is the only sure way to diagnose mesothelioma. Biopsies are medical procedures and range from a small needle to open surgery:|
Biopsied tissue will be sent to a laboratory to be analyzed by a technician. The results of that analysis will indicate the mesothelioma type.
Types of Mesothelioma
Mesothelioma is categorized in two ways: where they originate within the body, and the type of cell structure they have. Some types are much more common than others, and the most effective type of treatment differs based on mesothelioma type.
The following table lists mesothelioma types and cell types with the most common on top and least common at the bottom.
|Mesothelioma Type (Location)||Mesothelioma Cell Type|
|Pleural (lung linings)||Epithelioid – Mutation of healthy epithelial cells|
|Peritoneal (abdominal lining)||Biphasic – Combination of epithelioid and sarcomatoid cell types|
|Pericardial (heart lining)||Sarcomatoid – Malignant spindle-shaped cells|
Pleural mesothelioma with epithelioid cells is the most common of all mesothelioma types. Biphasic cell types are most common with peritoneal mesothelioma. Pericardial mesothelioma is extremely rare, and the sarcomatoid cell type is found infrequently on its own (though sarcomatoid cells appear more frequently with epithelioid cells in biphasic tumors).
Mesothelioma Treatment and Survivorship
There are two primary approaches to treating mesothelioma:
- Conventional treatment uses a combination of surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy to remove tumors and prevent remaining cancer cells from spreading.
- Experimental treatment tests new drugs and techniques in clinical trials in an attempt to find more effective ways to treat mesothelioma.
Either of these treatments may be used in an attempt to eradicate the cancer from the body, or as a palliative measure to reduce pain and help improve the patient’s quality of life.
Recent advances in both conventional and experimental mesothelioma treatments have shown promise in extending the lives of mesothelioma survivors. While there is no cure yet, doctors and researchers are hopeful that new therapies like immunotherapy, gene therapy, and others will greatly increase the life expectancies of patients.
Most asbestos exposure is due to the prevalence of the material in consumer products, construction materials, automobile parts, and industrial settings. The companies that expose workers, customers, and others to asbestos are liable for that exposure, especially when it leads to a deadly disease like mesothelioma, asbestosis, or a related condition.
If you or a loved one have been diagnosed with mesothelioma, you have legal rights. In addition to holding asbestos companies responsible for their actions, you may be eligible for compensation to help pay for medical treatment, lost income, and ongoing expenses related to the disease.