Mesothelioma is a rare cancer of the lung or abdominal lining, caused by asbestos exposure. Although overall life expectancy for mesothelioma is poor, individual prognoses will differ, depending upon the specific cancer subtype and stage at diagnosis, as well as general health.
Symptoms of mesothelioma include chest pain, shortness of breath, painful cough, unexplained weight loss, and abdominal pain and swelling. Mesothelioma diagnosis usually begins with a physical exam and patient history, including a history of asbestos exposure. Based on an abnormal physical examination, doctors may order a chest x-ray or CT scan, to look for abnormalities in the chest or abdomen. A definitive diagnosis of mesothelioma must be confirmed through a biopsy, an invasive procedure in which a doctor takes a small tissue sample, to evaluate under a microscope. The results of a tissue biopsy will determine which specific mesothelioma subtype the patient has.
– Epithelial mesothelioma is the most common subtype, and grows more slowly than other subtypes, leading to a longer life span for most victims.
Sarcomatoid Mesothelioma – Sarcomatoid mesothelioma is the least common, most aggressive form of mesothelioma. Patients with sarcomatoid mesothelioma cells generally have a lower five year survival rate than epithelial or mixed type patients.
Mixed Type Mesothelioma – Mixed, or biphasic, mesothelioma patients have both types of mesothelioma cells. Their prognosis is generally poorer than patients who have only epithelial mesothelioma cells.
Mesothelioma Five Year Survival Rates
Mesothelioma is an aggressive form of cancer, typically detected only in later stages. According to Cancer Research UK, patients are usually counseled that they will have about 1 year to live, following diagnosis. Cancer Research UK estimates that 4 out of 10 mesothelioma patients will live for 1 year, 2 out of 10 will live for 2 years, 1 in 10 will live for 3 years, and 8 out of 100 (8%) will survive for five years following diagnosis. In rare cases in which the disease is caught early, 2 year survival rates have been estimated as high as 50%.
Mesothelioma Treatment Options
Standard treatments for malignant mesothelioma typically consist of surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy. Surgical options may include the removal of all or part of a lung, as well as the lining surrounding it. In some cases, doctors may recommend pleurodesis, a procedure in which fluid is drained from the lungs and scar tissue is created to prevent the buildup of additional fluid. Following surgery, most doctors prefer to follow up with chemotherapy and radiation.
Because overall mesothelioma survival rates are low, patients are often encouraged to take part in clinical trials and experimental treatments. Biologic therapy, or immunotherapy is a type of experimental treatment in which the patient’s own immune system is used to attempt to fight off the cancer. Doctors are also experimenting with Hyperthermic intraperitoneal chemotherapy, in which abdominal mesothelioma is targeted by directly applying heated chemotherapy to the abdominal cavity. Patients interested in taking part in clinical trials can consult a searchable online database for more information.
After the Diagnosis: Next Steps
If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma, you may be concerned about your family’s future. Employers and asbestos product manufacturers have been held legally responsible for exposing thousands of hard working Americans to toxic asbestos fibers. You may be eligible for compensation. Contact an experienced asbestos litigation firm today, to discuss your options.