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Treatment Options

Although mesothelioma is an extremely serious and aggressive form of cancer, there are some treatment options available. Unfortunately, there is no cure for mesothelioma, but if caught in the early stages, there are a number of treatment options to kill cancerous cells and prevent tumors from spreading to prolong life and improve the overall quality of life for the patient.

Pleural MesotheliomaThere are a number of factors that determine what type of treatment a patient receives. This includes the stage of mesothelioma and how early doctors catch it, the form of mesothelioma, and the patient’s medical history. There are currently both standard treatment options as well as experimental treatment options that are still in clinical trial.

Mesothelioma can form in a number of areas in the human body. The most common is known as pleural mesothelioma and forms in the pleura of the lungs. This is found in an estimated three-fourths of all cases. Mesothelioma can also form in the abdomen – known as peritoneal mesothelioma – and also in the heart as pericardial mesothelioma.

There are different treatment options available for each form of mesothelioma. This includes radiation, chemotherapy, and also surgery.

Surgery

Surgery is the most common treatment for mesothelioma and is usually reserved for patients whose cancer was caught in the early stages and hasn’t spread past the lymph nodes. This treatment is used to remove the cancerous tumors to prevent them from spreading any further throughout the body. There are a number of forms of surgery including the following:

  • Wide local excision – This form of surgery removes the tumors or cancer and some healthy tissue surrounding the cancer.
  • Pleurectomy and decortication – Removes a portion of the lining of the lungs, the lining of the chest, and even a portion of the outside surface of the lungs
  • Extrapleural pneumonectomy – Surgery to remove one lung, part of the lining of the chest, the diaphragm, and the lignin of the sac surrounding the heart

Chemotherapy and Radiation

Surgery can be a very effective way to treat mesothelioma; however, most mesothelioma patients also need additional treatment in the form of radiation or chemotherapy to kill the remaining cancer cells and prolong the patient’s life as much as possible.

Radiation therapy is used to treat a number of different types of cancer as well as mesothelioma. This therapy uses x-rays or other forms of radiation to kill cancer cells and prevent new ones from growing. This can include both external and internal radiation. External radiation comes from a machine outside the body and is sent directly toward the targeted area. On the other hand, internal radiation is administered using needles, seeds, or catheters that are placed into the body close to the affected area.

Chemotherapy is another popular cancer treatment that uses drugs to kill cancer cells and stop them from multiplying.  The drugs can be administered either by mouth in the form of a pill or can be injected straight into the bloodstream. The type of chemotherapy give depends greatly on the stage of mesothelioma.

The Causes Of Mesothelioma?

Mesothelioma, a form of cancer that attacks the linings of major organs like the lungs, abdomen, and heart, was a rare form of cancer until asbestos products became very popular for industrial and commercial use during the early to mid 20th century. Then, when doctors first linked mesothelioma to asbestos exposure in 1964, it became evident that exposure to asbestos fibers in the air was extremely dangerous and could cause serious, life-changing illnesses.

Biological ChangesBetween 1940 and 1978, an estimated 11 million people were exposed to asbestos in the United States and the number of mesothelioma cases is expected to peak by the year 2020. There are also an estimated 2,000 new cases of mesothelioma every year across the United States. Researchers have determined the primary cause of mesothelioma is asbestos, but where does one come in contact with asbestos?

Asbestos was used in homes and businesses around the country in a number of products because of its fire-retardant and insulating qualities until the 1980s. People were at risk of being exposed if they worked at an asbestos plant, lived near an asbestos mine, renovated a home with asbestos, or even served on a military ship where asbestos was used.

Heavy exposure to asbestos puts you at serious risk of mesothelioma, but you can also suffer potentially serious side effects during your first exposure to the material. After inhaling or ingesting asbestos, the fibers then get trapped inside the mesothelial linings of the lungs, heart, or abdomen, causing a number of biological changes that could eventually cause mesothelioma.

When Mesothelioma Develops

There is no absolute answer as to the exact why asbestos causes mesothelioma but there are a number of theories. All of these theories are based on the idea that asbestos disrupts a cell’s natural cycle, eventually leading to the cells dividing and growing rapidly before forming tumors. These theories include:

  • Uncontrolled growth
  • Inflamed cells
  • Genetic changes
  • Cancerous mutations

Even though asbestos has been determined to be the primary cause of mesothelioma, there are some other potential risk factors that could lead to this devastating disease. This includes the following:

Many people believe smoking can cause mesothelioma. And while research has shown this is not the case, smoking can severely weaken the lungs, making it harder for the body to expel asbestos fibers from the lungs. One way you can take action and look out for your health is to inform your doctor if you have been exposed to asbestos in the past so he or she is informed of your risk.

There is currently no known cure for mesothelioma; however, there are ways you can help prevent mesothelioma. One of the best ways you can do this is by taking control of your own health and visiting the doctor for a check-up on a regular basis. This is especially important if you know you have been exposed to asbestos in the past.

The Aftermath of a Mesothelioma Diagnosis

More than 2,000 new cases of mesothelioma are reported every year in the United States. This accounts for anywhere between 14 and 30 out of a million people annually. Because of its severity and aggressive nature, a mesothelioma diagnosis can be one of the scariest and uncertain times in your life. Along with feeling frightened, shocked, and worries, you may also feel angry or even depressed as you begin to contemplate the seriousness of this diagnosis and what it means for you and your family.

Mesothelioma TestMesothelioma is especially frightening because it often isn’t diagnosed until the later stages. This is because the symptoms resemble those of other, less-serious illnesses. So when a patient is diagnosed, he or she is usually in stage two or three and faces a much tougher treatment battle. There are also is no known cure for mesothelioma at the moment and most treatment is meant to only prolong life or improve the patient’s comfort and overall quality of life. Unfortunately, an estimated 50 percent of all mesothelioma patients have a life span of only 8 to 18 months.

This doesn’t mean there isn’t hope. By taking appropriate action and seeking the best medical treatment available, you may have a chance at treating your mesothelioma and extending your life from months to years. One of the biggest reasons patients feel overwhelmed or frightened is because they don’t have a clear knowledge or understating of mesothelioma. If you have been diagnosed with mesothelioma, one of the best things you can do is learn as much as possible and speak with professionals.

One of the first things you should do after receiving a mesothelioma diagnosis is to seek a second opinion. Many patients do not think to get a second opinion because they trust their doctor or do not want to offend him or her by seeing someone else. Because this cancer is so rare and so life-altering, you need to get a second opinion before pursuing any treatment. If possible, your second opinion should be from a mesothelioma expert who has experience diagnosing and treating this form of cancer.

Along with seeking a second option, you should also make sure you are asking as many questions and finding out as much information as possible. Don’t be afraid to ask your doctor any question you have. By understanding your condition, you can better handle the treatment and everything else associated with mesothelioma.

One mistake many patients make is not pursuing medical treatment as soon as possible. You should begin treatment very soon after your diagnosis to maximize the potential for removing tumors, killing cancer cells, and prolonging life as much as possible. If you were diagnosed in the early stages of mesothelioma, you may be able to eliminate the cancer through surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation.

Treatment is still useful in the later stages of mesothelioma. Although the life expectancy is 13 months for Stage III and 6.5 months for Stage IV, treatment can help improve your overall quality of life and possibly even extend your time as much as possible.

Additionally, many mesothelioma victims can recover financial compensation to pay for medical bills, funeral costs, and other expenses by filing a mesothelioma lawsuit.

Detecting Mesothelioma: Symptoms and Warning Signs

Detecting symptoms of any disease or illness is essential in getting a timely diagnosis and receiving the necessary treatment as early as possible. This is no different for people suffering from mesothelioma, a rare form of cancer that affects the lining of various organs in a person’s body, as treatment for this cancer is most effective early on and the prognosis for an affected person is substantially less positive when in the later stages of this disease.

CellUnfortunately, mesothelioma has a long latency period that can be anywhere from ten to forty years. As asbestos, mineral fibers that get inhaled or ingested and stuck in the lining of organs, is considered to be the most common cause of mesothelioma, this means that someone exposed to asbestos may not know they have developed this disease until decades after the exposure. Sadly, this often means that a person will not start showing signs of the cancer until it is in its later stages, making a person’s survival chances much lower. Additionally, even when a person does start exhibiting signs of the disease, the symptoms are often ignored as unimportant or insignificant or misdiagnosed as signs of a less serious illness, such as a cold.

Possible Signs of Mesothelioma

Although the signs of mesothelioma are hard to detect, there are certain symptoms a person can look for when they believe they may have mesothelioma. While there are some common symptoms that may manifest in anyone with this cancer, many of the signs are typically symptomatic of the specific form of mesothelioma that a person has. For example, if a person has pleural mesothelioma, the most common form of this disease that affects the lining of a person’s lungs, they may lower back pain, chest pain, and difficulty breathing. A lasting cough and coughing up blood may also be signs that a person has pleural mesothelioma. On the other hand, if a person has peritoneal mesothelioma, a form of mesothelioma that affects the lining of a person’s abdomen, they may show signs of stomach pain, significant weight loss, and vomiting.

Besides specific symptoms for certain forms of this cancer, there are some common symptoms that anyone with mesothelioma may experience, including the following:

  • Blood clotting disorders and problems – many people with mesothelioma experience trouble forming blood clots, which can lead to other serious health problems, such as anemia.
  • Anemia –it is common for people with mesothelioma to develop lower than average red blood cell counts, causing extreme fatigue and other health complications if left untreated.
  • Fluid effusion – this is a buildup of fluid that occurs in either the pleural or the pericardium
  • Weight loss – this symptom can be seen in patients with varying forms of the cancer, although it typically is most severe in those with peritoneal mesothelioma due to pain in the stomach and nausea. However, fatigue and other pain may cause people with other forms to lose weight as well.

While these and other symptoms of mesothelioma are often hard to detect or do not manifest until later stages of the disease, a person who shows any of these signs and has been exposed to asbestos should get checked immediately.

Prospects after Being Diagnosed with Mesothelioma

Being diagnosed with any disease or form of cancer is extremely frightening, and many people’s first question or concern is what their prognosis is. When discussing a prognosis, a person wants to know what their life expectancy is likely to be and what their chances of surviving the disease are. Sadly, mesothelioma is an extremely aggressive form of cancer that is often caught in later stages, making the prognosis generally less positive than other forms of cancer. Additionally, it is impossible to say exactly what a person’s prognosis is; however, there are a number of factors that can affect a person’s expected survival and life expectancy, increasing it or decreasing it.

Prognosis and Living with Mesothelioma

CancerWhen diagnosed with mesothelioma, certain factors, such as what type and form a person has, the stage in which the cancer was caught, and others, will play a large role in determining a person’s life expectancy. Sadly, those diagnosed in the later stages of mesothelioma and with the rarer forms of the cancer are likely to have lower life expectancies and less positive prognoses than those in earlier stages.

As a very aggressive form of cancer that is often caught very late in its development, the outlook for mesothelioma is not great for many patients. Although the percentages of people who survive one year and five years after diagnosis has risen greatly in recent years, the number of people who survive past one year is only 40% and only 10% for five years. As a result, the number of people who go into remission is extremely low.

Factors Affecting the Prognosis

When a person is diagnosed with mesothelioma, there are a number of ways in which a doctor may determine their prognosis. Some factors that are used include the following:

  • Overall health – a person whose health is relatively good besides the mesothelioma typically has a better chance of fighting off the cancer and living longer after the diagnosis than those whose health is not as good.
  • Form of Mesothelioma – while a majority of people have an epithelial form of mesothelioma, which has the best rates of survival, there are those diagnosed with the sarcomatoid or a mixed form of mesothelioma, both of which have lower rates of survival.
  • Metastasis – depending on how early the mesothelioma is caught, it may or may not have metastasized already. Metastasis occurs when the cancer spreads from the original location, such as the lining of the lungs or heart, to surrounding tissue or organs. A common place that mesothelioma metastasizes is the lymph nodes. When mesothelioma metastasizes, the prognosis for the person is not as good and treatment has to be more aggressive.
  • Stage of mesothelioma – treatment and prognosis is better the earlier this disease is caught. Typically, a person in stage one or two can begin receiving treatment fairly quickly and responds better to the treatment. Sadly, however, because of the long latency period of mesothelioma and the difficulty in diagnosing the cancer from symptoms, the cancer is not caught until a person is already in stage 3 or 4 of the disease, making treatment much more difficult.
  • Type of Mesothelioma – for those diagnosed with pleural mesothelioma, which accounts for the majority of those diagnosed with this cancer, the prognosis is generally better than for those diagnosed with peritoneal mesothelioma or other forms, such as pericardial.

Mesothelioma is an extremely serious disease that, tragically, affects a number of Americans each year. While catching it early is difficult, those who have been exposed to asbestos should get tested regularly to determine whether they have the disease and try to catch the cancer as early as possible