What Is Mesothelioma?
Perceptions about malignant mesothelioma are changing.
Scientific research and increased awareness are leading to earlier diagnoses. Improved and developing mesothelioma treatments are allowing patients to live longer than ever.
As more thoracic surgeons and oncologists become familiar with malignant mesothelioma, patients will have more experienced doctors who can extend their life expectancy and increase their chances of surviving this disease
Diagram of mesothelioma & other asbestos-related diseases as they form on the lungs
Malignant mesothelioma is cancer caused by asbestos exposure. It forms in the lining of the lungs, abdomen, heart or testicles. Around 2,500 new cases of malignant mesothelioma are diagnosed each year in the U.S.
A small portion of mesothelioma tumors is not cancerous. Known as benign mesothelioma, these tumors respond well to surgery and rarely recur.
To understand malignant mesothelioma, it is important to learn about its causes, symptoms, types, treatment and prognosis. Learning more about mesothelioma cancer will help you make wise decisions about treatment and help you choose the best path to extend your life expectancy.
Men are 75% of all diagnosed mesothelioma cases
Source: SEER, 2017
Exposure to asbestos is still the overwhelming cause of mesothelioma. Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral once highly regarded for its insulation and fire-retardant properties.
Approximately 75 percent of cases are men who were exposed to asbestos while serving in the military or working certain high-risk blue-collar jobs. Some of these jobs include construction, firefighting, shipbuilding and industrial work.
Secondary exposure also occurs when washing the clothes of someone in a high-risk occupation. Living near abandoned asbestos mines or areas where asbestos occurs naturally in the environment can lead to exposure.
LEARN ABOUT THE CAUSES OF MALIGNANT MESOTHELIOMA
Mesothelioma symptoms do not usually arise until tumors have grown and spread, and they begin to press against the chest wall or abdominal cavity.
If you have a history of asbestos exposure and experience these symptoms, you should consult a mesothelioma cancer specialist as soon as possible. Although symptoms appear during the late stage of cancer, quick diagnosis may improve your prognosis and life expectancy.
Who Gets Mesothelioma?
Men over the age of 60 make up the majority of malignant mesothelioma cases. But, cases among women recently increased by 8 percent
Source: The Wall Street Journal, 2003
Men over the age of 60 make up the majority of malignant mesothelioma cases. But, cases among women recently increased by 8 percent.
People who worked with asbestos products are at an increased risk of developing mesothelioma cancer. Those who served in the U.S. armed forces and worked at certain occupations, such as construction jobs, were more likely to use asbestos products.
The risk of developing mesothelioma increases with continued exposure to asbestos. Most people who get cancer worked with asbestos products for years.
Types of Mesothelioma
Each type of malignant mesothelioma is classified by the location in the body where it develops. Prognosis, symptoms and treatment options vary by type.
The pleural and peritoneal types of mesothelioma are the most common. Pericardial accounts for just 1 percent of cases. Another rare type known as testicular mesothelioma represents less than 1 percent of all mesotheliomas.
A patient’s prognosis, or survival outlook, is individualized to the patient based on how the disease is expected to affect their body and lifespan. Prognosis varies greatly from person to person. But, younger patients, women and people diagnosed with peritoneal mesothelioma typically have a better prognosis than older men diagnosed with the pleural type.
The two biggest factors that affect prognosis are the stage and cell type of cancer. Other factors affecting life expectancy include age, gender, overall health and history of the patient’s asbestos exposure.
There are three types of mesothelioma cancer cells: Epithelioid, sarcomatoid and biphasic. Epithelioid is the most common and easier to treat than the other types.
Patients with early stages typically have a better prognosis than those with stage 3 or stage 4 because more treatment options are available the earlier the cancer is detected. Electing treatment at any stage can improve survival rates.
Importance of Finding a Mesothelioma Specialist
X-ray of mesothelioma cancer
Finding a specialist is necessary to get an accurate diagnosis. Malignant mesothelioma experts know the right diagnostic tools to determine the exact stage you are in and will customize a treatment plan to extend your life expectancy.
Because this disease represents only 0.3 percent of all diagnosed cancers, most primary care doctors and many oncologists rarely treat or see mesothelioma cancer. Finding a mesothelioma specialty center with a staff that truly understands the intricacies of cancer — and the best ways to treat it — is crucial to extending survival.
Mesothelioma specialists have diagnosed and treated this disease throughout their medical careers. They know the latest medical advancements specific to this unique disease and have the tools to improve prognosis.
The leading treatment options for mesothelioma cancer include surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy. Many specialists prefer to combine two or more of these treatments, which is an approach known as multimodal therapy. Numerous studies show this approach improves survival rates.
Palliative treatments that ease symptoms are quite common for patients of all stages. Emerging therapies in clinical trials, such as immunotherapy, show promise
Additionally, many survivors credit less traditional alternative treatments for helping them live longer. Care in pursuit of these alternative approaches is recommended, because evidence to support claims of benefit may be lacking, and some practitioners may only be preying on fear and desperation to take advantage of patients.
Mesothelioma Lawsuits and Financial Assistance
Personal injury lawsuits have gotten a bad rap thanks to poor portrayal in TV shows and movies. The media tends to focus on frivolous lawsuits. But mesothelioma lawsuits are not frivolous. Anyone diagnosed with mesothelioma knows they did nothing wrong to deserve it.
Treatment is expensive, and insurance companies may not cover the cost of diagnostic tests or experimental therapies. People without medical insurance will face an even harder battle. If you or a loved one is diagnosed, consider taking steps to protect your finances.
Malignant mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases are preventable, but the companies that mined, manufactured and sold asbestos products put profits before the health of their own employee and customers. Our legal system ensures these companies are held accountable for their negligence.
A good mesothelioma lawyer can guide you through the process. There is no hassle for the patient to endure. Most mesothelioma lawsuits settle out of court. This means you likely won’t have to testify in front of a jury. Most patients can do their deposition from the comfort of their home.
Importance of Having a Mesothelioma Lawyer
Working with an experienced mesothelioma lawyer will help you move smoothly through the legal process of filing a lawsuit or trust fund claim.
Mesothelioma lawsuits include personal injury claims and wrongful death claims. Most lawsuits are settled out of court before a trial takes place.
Asbestos trust funds are established by now defunct companies that filed for bankruptcy protection. To date, these funds contain more than $30 billion to compensate workers and their families.