Mesothelioma is a rare and aggressive form of cancer found in the lining of the lungs, abdomen, or heart. Because symptoms can be similar to those of a number of other conditions, it can be difficult to detect or diagnose mesothelioma. This rare cancer is caused by exposure to asbestos and has no known cure.
Quick Medical Facts:
- Between 2,000 and 3,000 people are diagnosed with mesothelioma each year
- Men are 4X more likely to receive a mesothelioma diagnosis than women
- Symptoms usually take 20-50 years to develop and become noticeable
- Patients receiving a diagnosis are 69 years old on average
- 11 million people were exposed to asbestos between 1940 and 1978 according to the National Institutes of Health
- Gastrointestinal cancer and colorectal cancer have an association with asbestos, but more research is needed to establish a complete causal relationship
Malignant mesothelioma has one proven cause: exposure to asbestos. Employers knew that they were putting their employees at risk by using these harmful fibers. At Vogelzang Law, we believe that if you or your loved one were wrongfully exposed to asbestos, you deserve justice.
During this difficult time of dealing with a mesothelioma diagnosis, an experienced asbestos attorney can offer the knowledge and resources needed to help you and your family fight for justice. Vogelzang Law has helped over 200 families with asbestos-related litigation, and it is our priority to guide you through each step of the process with transparency and top-notch legal representation.
Because symptoms of malignant mesothelioma can be similar to those of other conditions, it can be difficult to detect and diagnose. Common symptoms of malignant mesothelioma in the lining of the lungs, chest, abdomen, heart, or testicles include:
- Difficulty breathing
- Persistent coughing
- Experiencing a pain under the rib cage
- Abdominal pain, swelling, or lumps
- Prolonged hoarseness
- Persistent constipation
- Excessive blood clotting indicated by redness, swelling, and pain
- Weight loss
- Chronic fatigue
- Chest pain or irregular heartbeat
TREATMENT OPTIONS FOR MESOTHELIOMA CANCER
The four common modalities to treat malignant mesothelioma are:
- Surgery – This modality includes two different techniques:
- Using a scalpel to cut out the tumor and surrounding tissue
- Injecting chemicals to create scar tissue to prevent fluid build-up in the affected area
- Radiation therapy – Treating the malignancy with x-rays and other forms of radiation
- Chemotherapy – A treatment that uses combinations of chemicals known to shrink the malignancy
- Targeted therapy – The use of drugs or other substances to “target” specific areas of the cancer
In addition to these top four treatment options, other therapies include: photodynamic therapy, virus, gene and immunotherapy.
MESOTHELIOMA CANCER PROGNOSIS
There are many factors and combinations of factors that affect your mesothelioma cancer prognosis. Some of them include:
- The type of malignant mesothelioma – This includes where it is located in the body
- The stage of the mesothelioma cancer – A “stage” refers to the size of the cancer and where it is located in your body
- The grade of the mesothelioma cancer – A “grade” refers to how abnormal the cancer cells look under a microscope. Grading provides clues about how quickly the cancer is likely to grow and spread.
- Certain traits of the mesothelioma cancer cells
- Your age and how healthy you were before your malignant mesothelioma cancer – Generally speaking, the younger and healthier you are, the better your prognosis
- How you respond to treatment
Only an experienced mesothelioma cancer physician can recommend the best treatment for the best possible malignant mesothelioma prognosis.
MESOTHELIOMA STAGING – TNM
Originally developed by the International Mesothelioma Interest Group, the TNM staging system is the most accurate and the most commonly-used system in mesothelioma diagnosis. It describes tumors (T), lymph nodes (N) and how your cancer has spread, or metasis (M).
The TNM staging system is very detailed, involving notations like: T1N0MX or T3N1M0 where the tumors, the lymph nodes and the metastasis is further quantified.
THE IMPORTANCE OF STAGING
By conducting the appropriate tests, your physician can determine the staging of your mesothelioma. This is important because it:
- Qualifies how serious your cancer is and your chances of survival
- Helps your physician plan the best treatment for you
- Enables your physician to identify clinical trials that may be treatment options for you
RECENT STATISTICS ON MESOTHELIOMA PROGNOSIS
As malignant mesothelioma is relatively rare when compared to other cancers, there are not many recent statistics regarding mesothelioma prognosis. On its website, the American Cancer Society cites a large international study of pleural mesothelioma completed in 2009 that revealed the median survival rate using a stage system that was more generally described. These survival rates for malignant mesothelioma ranged from 21 months for Stage I to only 12 months for Stage IV.
WHEN TO SEE A DOCTOR
Considered a rare cancer, malignant mesothelioma can be difficult to diagnose. Not just because of its rarity, but also because the symptoms you experience could be due to another type of cancer, such as lung cancer. That’s why it’s important to see an experienced mesothelioma physician to ensure your diagnosis is accurate.
That said, regardless whether it’s lung cancer or mesothelioma, it’s important you do see a physician if you are experiencing one or more of the symptoms described above and you’ve been exposed to asbestos 20 or more years ago.
WAYS YOUR DOCTOR CAN USE TO DIAGNOSE MESOTHELIOMA
Some techniques your doctor may use to diagnose your mesothelioma include:
- Needle biopsy
- Drainage of lung fluid
- Lung function test
Imaging tests, which may include:
- CT or CAT (computed axial tomography) scans
- MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scans
- PET (positron emission tomography) scans
- Chest X-ray
Thoracoscopic surgical biopsy: A small incision (cut) is made in the chest. A tiny tube with a camera on the end is inserted, and a small amount of tissue is removed and looked at under a microscope.