What is the Mesothelioma Cancer? CAUSES, SYMPTOMS, DIAGNOSIS, STAGES, and TREATMENT
Mesothelioma is rare cancer caused by asbestos exposure. It can develop in the lining of the lungs, abdomen, or heart. Common symptoms include shortness of breath, chest or abdominal pain, and fatigue. Treatments can help relieve these symptoms and improve prognosis. On average, patients survive 12 to 21 months after diagnosis.
- 01. CAUSES
What causes mesothelioma?
The only definitive cause of mesothelioma cancer is exposure to asbestos. When asbestos fibers are inhaled or ingested, they cannot be eliminated from the body. The fibers can become embedded in the lining of the lungs, abdomen, or heart.
Over time, the fibers cause inflammation and scarring. This irritation can cause the mutation of healthy cells. Over time, the mutated cells can develop into tumors.
Researchers have found that any amount of asbestos exposure is dangerous. All exposure to asbestos puts people at risk of developing mesothelioma.
How are people exposed to asbestos?
Asbestos was used in thousands of products until the 1980s. Various industries, such as construction and industrial manufacturing, used the mineral. These industries considered asbestos to be beneficial due to its durability and resistance to heat. Businesses often use asbestos in their buildings, manufacturing processes, or the products they make.
As a result of past use, asbestos exposure remains a worldwide hazard.
Exposure to asbestos at work
Although many industries no longer use asbestos, workplace exposure remains a concern. Past uses of asbestos, such as in old machinery and equipment, continue to put workers at risk. Older buildings, including schools, may also contain asbestos materials.
Occupations at risk for asbestos exposure include:
- construction workers
- farm workers
- Teachers and school staff
- shipyard workers
- HVAC workers
- industrial workers
- machine operators
- metal workers
- oil refinery workers
- merchant marines
Also, asbestos is not banned in the United States and many other countries. In the United States, certain products, including gaskets and brake pads, may still contain small amounts of asbestos. This poses a continuing exposure risk to workers and consumers.
Non-occupational asbestos exposure
Families of workers in hazardous occupations may also face asbestos exposure. Workers can unknowingly bring asbestos fibers home on their clothing, exposing loved ones. This is called secondary asbestos exposure.
Asbestos workers can carry asbestos fibers on their hair, skin, or clothing. Asbestos fibers can also contaminate workers’ cars and any equipment they bring home.
Old asbestos products can also be found in homes, schools, and buildings built before the 1980s. These asbestos materials are not dangerous if left undisturbed and in good condition.
However, people may be at risk of exposure as the materials wear or alter. For example, construction projects can disturb asbestos materials. If there is asbestos in a house or building, anyone in that area is at risk of exposure.
- 02. SYMPTOMS
Signs and symptoms of mesothelioma
After exposure to asbestos, it can take between 10 and 50 years for people to develop symptoms of mesothelioma. Depending on where the mesothelioma develops, patients may experience a variety of symptoms. The severity of symptoms can also differ depending on the cell type and the stage of the mesothelioma.
Common symptoms of mesothelioma cancer include:
- Abdominal or chest pain
- Difficulty breathing
- Fluid buildup in the lungs or abdomen
- Night sweats
People with a known history of asbestos exposure should see a doctor right away if they develop any of these symptoms.
- 03. DIAGNOSIS
How is mesothelioma diagnosed?
Mesothelioma can only be diagnosed by biopsy. However, doctors may perform a variety of tests during the diagnostic process.
The process often begins with imaging scans, such as an X-ray or CT scan. Imaging tests can help doctors identify any abnormalities in the body that are causing symptoms, such as pain or discomfort from tumors.
In some cases, doctors may also recommend blood tests. These tests may indicate the presence of mesothelioma. Blood tests can also help doctors distinguish cancer from other conditions.
Often the last step in the diagnostic process is a biopsy, which is a sample of fluid or tissue. A biopsy is the only method to definitively confirm a diagnosis of mesothelioma. Doctors analyze the sample to confirm mesothelioma, as well as to determine the type and type of cell. Doctors will also determine the stage by analyzing the biopsy and other diagnostic tests.
- 04. TYPES OF MESOTHELIOMA
Types of mesothelioma
There are three main types of mesothelioma based on where cancer develops.
- Pleural mesothelioma develops in the lining of the lungs (pleura).
- This is the most common form of mesothelioma. It represents 80 to 90% of all cases.
- Peritoneal mesothelioma develops in the lining of the abdomen (peritoneum).
- It is the second most common form of cancer and accounts for 15 to 20% of all cases.
The pericardial mesothelioma
- Pericardial mesothelioma develops in the lining of the heart (pericardium).
- It represents approximately 1 – 2% of all mesothelioma diagnoses.
In very rare cases, people have been diagnosed with testicular mesothelioma. This form develops in the tunica vaginalis. There are limited documented cases.
n addition to the main types of mesothelioma, doctors will also determine the cell type. The three most common mesothelioma cell types are epithelioid, sarcomatoid, and biphasic. The type of cell can affect how cancer spreads. For example, the sarcomatoid is more aggressive than the other cell types and can spread rapidly.
The type of mesothelioma cells is also a factor in the life expectancy of the patient and the treatment options available.
- 05. STAGES OF MESOTHELIOMA
What are the stages of mesothelioma?
During diagnosis, doctors will determine the stage of the mesothelioma. There are four stages of mesothelioma based on the extent of cancer.
- Stage 1 mesothelioma is the earliest stage.
- Stage 1 means the cancer is localized and has not spread.
- Stage 2 mesothelioma indicates that the cancer has spread to nearby organs and lymph nodes.
- Stage 3 mesothelioma is a more advanced stage.
- At this stage, the cancer has continued to spread to nearby organs, tissues, and lymph nodes.
- Stage 4 mesothelioma is the last stage.
- Stage 4 indicates that the cancer has spread locally and to distant organs, tissues, and lymph nodes.
The stage of mesothelioma is one of the most important factors in determining a patient’s prognosis and treatment options. For example, patients diagnosed at stage 1 or 2 generally have a more favorable prognosis than those diagnosed at stage 3 or 4. Patients diagnosed at earlier stages may also be eligible for more aggressive treatment options, such as invasive surgery. .
- 06. FORECAST
Mesothelioma patients have an average life expectancy of 12 to 21 months after diagnosis. A person’s prognosis will vary based on several factors.
Researchers continue to advance diagnostic methods and treatment options. As a result, mesothelioma survival rates have improved in recent years. For example, some peritoneal mesothelioma patients treated with surgery and a hot form of chemotherapy have survived 10 years or more.
After a mesothelioma diagnosis, treatment is the best way to improve the prognosis.
Factors that affect a patient’s life expectancy include:
- type of mesothelioma
- cell type
- mesothelioma stage
- patient age
- General health
- 07. TREATMENT OPTIONS
How is mesothelioma treated?
There are a variety of treatment options for mesothelioma. After a diagnosis, patients should seek specialized care from a physician experienced in treating mesothelioma. An experienced specialist will be able to develop a personalized treatment plan based on the patient’s unique case. Personalized care can potentially improve a patient’s life expectancy and quality of life.
Standard treatment options for mesothelioma include:
- Surgery to remove as many tumors as possible
- Chemotherapy to kill cancer cells
- Radiation therapy to slow tumor growth and kill mesothelioma cells
Mesothelioma specialists also continue to investigate promising emerging treatments in clinical trials. Emerging treatments for mesothelioma include immunotherapy, photodynamic therapy, and gene therapy. Patients should talk to their doctor about eligibility to participate in clinical trials.
In many cases, mesothelioma doctors recommend a multimodal treatment plan. This means a combination of two or more treatments. Multimodal treatments may include standard and emerging options.
Palliative and alternative treatments
Depending on each individual’s case, palliative care or alternative therapies may also be available. Palliative care can help control symptoms and improve the patient’s quality of life.
Some patients may also choose to supplement their treatment with alternative medicine. Alternative treatments, such as touch therapy and nutritional supplements, may help some patients alleviate the side effects of standard therapies.
- 08. LEGAL OPTIONS
Legal Options for Mesothelioma Patients
Mesothelioma patients and their loved ones may be eligible for financial compensation. Many asbestos companies recognized the health risks of asbestos and continued to use the mineral. The companies’ negligence put their employees and consumers in danger of exposure.
Pursuing legal action may allow those affected by mesothelioma to hold negligent companies accountable and receive compensation.
Financial compensation can help patients and their families with:
- Medical expenses
- Treatment-Related Costs
- lost income
- Other economic difficulties
A mesothelioma attorney can help patients or their loved one survivors understand their eligibility for different types of claims. For example, people affected by mesothelioma may be eligible for a mesothelioma lawsuit or an asbestos trust fund claim. For those who choose to file a claim, an experienced attorney can help throughout the legal process.