What is Mesothelioma?
The Facts About Mesothelioma
Mesothelioma is a rare cancer that is caused by asbestos exposure. This asbestos-related disease attacks the inner lining of organs, which is called the mesothelium. The organs that are normally attacked are the lungs, abdomen, heart and testicles. It usually takes anywhere between 20-50 years for mesothelioma to develop.
There is no cure for mesothelioma and only around 3,000 mesothelioma cases are diagnosed each year. The most common type of mesothelioma is pleural mesothelioma, which develops on the lining of the lungs. The other, less common types are pericardial mesothelioma, peritoneal mesothelioma and testicular mesothelioma.
During the 1970s and 80s the U.S. began to regulate asbestos use, but we are still finding it in buildings, pipes, ships and military installations throughout our nation and the world. People are still being exposed to asbestos and individuals are still being diagnosed with mesothelioma.
Early on, treating mesothelioma was very difficult and the outlook was grim, but new medications, surgical procedures and technology provide favorable treatment options for mesothelioma patients that dramatically increase their life spans.
What Causes Mesothelioma?
Asbestos exposure is the cause of mesothelioma, which usually occurred in the workplace or residence. Since the latency period (how long it takes) of mesothelioma is so long, it’s difficult to pinpoint the exact moment that you inhaled asbestos. People who were exposed over long periods of time were more likely to develop mesothelioma than those who were not.
The most dangerous time for asbestos exposure is when asbestos is being disturbed. During such disruptions, asbestos fibers and dust enter the air and are inhaled. Constantly being exposed for decades at your job increases your chances of developing mesothelioma.
What are the Types of Mesothelioma?
There are four types of mesothelioma cancer.
This type of mesothelioma is the most common and accounts for almost 75 percent of all mesothelioma cases. This asbestos cancer attacks the lining of the lungs.
This type of mesothelioma is the second most common and accounts for almost 20 percent of all mesothelioma cases. This asbestos cancer attacks the lining of the abdomen.
This type of mesothelioma is extremely rare and accounts for a small percentage of cases. This asbestos cancer attacks the lining of the heart.
This type of mesothelioma is the rarest and accounts for less than one percent of all cases. This asbestos cancer attacks the lining of the testicles.
What are the Symptoms of Mesothelioma?
The symptoms of mesothelioma in the early stages are almost unrecognizable. This allows the cancer to grow and spread through the body. As mesothelioma advances in stages, the symptoms become more prevalent and painful.
Mesothelioma patients can begin to feel the following symptoms:
- Tumor Pain
- Weight Loss
- Bloated with fluid
- Trouble breathing
- Obstruction of bowels
- Painful Cough
- Trouble swallowing
How Do You Diagnose Mesothelioma?
Diagnosing mesothelioma is very difficult and the disease is commonly misdiagnosed because it is so rare and physicians are unsure what type of cancer it may be. If you know that you were exposed to asbestos, then it is important that explain this to your physician. If you are not getting the answers you need, then you may want to seek a mesothelioma specialist.
Physicians will usually order X-Rays, CT Scans or PET Scans along with a biopsy to determine the type and stage of cancer. These scans are used along with your personal history of asbestos exposure to guide doctors in making your diagnosis to identify what type and what stage of mesothelioma you may have. The biopsy will have the most clear answers to what type and stage of mesothelioma you may be experiencing. A pathologist will analyze the tumor sample and give an exact answer to the type of cancer you may have.
How Do You Improve Your Prognosis?
If you have learned that you or a loved one has been diagnosed with mesothelioma, then one of the main questions you are going to ask is, “What do I need to do in order to make things better?” This is what is called improving your prognosis or improving your life expectancy.
Here are some of the things that you can do to improve your prognosis:
- Locate a Mesothelioma Specialist
- Determine All Your Mesothelioma Treatment Options
- Find Clinical Trials
- Get a Second Opinion
- Improve Your Wellness
What are the Four Stages of Mesothelioma?
Diagnosing your cancer as mesothelioma is one step in the process, but determining what stage will also impact how you can treat your mesothelioma. Stages of cancer are designated at Stage I, Stage II, Stage III or Stage IV. Below is a description of each stage of mesothelioma cancer.
- STAGE I
Catching mesothelioma or any type of cancer early allows you to have the best prognosis. Since mesothelioma is very rare and not many oncologists have ever diagnosed mesothelioma, some have trouble diagnosing mesothelioma in Stage I.
- STAGE II
At this stage, mesothelioma is localized and has not spread to other parts of the body. Mesothelioma diagnosed at this stage allows patients to have multiple options for treatment, including surgery, chemotherapy and radiation.
- STAGE III
Mesothelioma has spread to other parts of the body at this stage. Treatment options begin to start being limited, but surgery, chemotherapy and radiation may still be an option.
- STAGE IV
Stage IV mesothelioma has spread throughout the body and organs are negatively impacted. The treatment options are very limited.
What are Mesothelioma Treatments?
Mesothelioma is a difficult cancer to diagnose. Generally, it is not diagnosed until later stages where treatment options are limited. There are also a number of factors that control what type of treatment you may be provided, including age, overall health, type of mesothelioma and stage of mesothelioma. Below are a number of treatment options that your mesothelioma specialist may offer:
This treatment has shown to have the best results in improving your prognosis. When combined with other treatment options, surgery has had a lot of success in extending patients’ lives.
This treatment allows the doctor to target the tumor with beams of radiation, shrinking and killing tumor cells. Usually a mesothelioma specialist will combine radiation with surgery.
This treatment is medication that is administered via an IV, port or orally. The drug travels throughout the body and reduces the spread of cancer and kills cancer cells.
- Multimodal Therapy
Mesothelioma specialists have seen great success in combining multiple treatment options together to treat mesothelioma, such as surgery, chemotherapy and radiation.
Mesothelioma specialists also can guide you to the latest clinical trials where groundbreaking discoveries are made in treating mesothelioma.